Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JUNE 27, 2019

BLACKSHEAR WILL BE A GATOR

The Kerry Blackshear Sweepstakes are over and the Florida Gators and Mike White are the big winners for the talented graduate transfer who averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while helping Virginia Tech reach the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Blackshear made second team All-ACC.

To land Blackshear (6-10, 252), the Gators outrecruited the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Just a week ago there were published reports from so-called analysts claiming Florida had been eliminated and that the three finalists for Blackshear were Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Within the previous 48 hours, it was being reported by even more analysts that Blackshear would decide between Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

The reality is the Gators were the real but unannounced favorite from day one for a number of reasons, among them the proximity to Blackshear’s hometown of Orlando. An Evans High School grad and the son of Stetson’s all-time leading scorer, it was important for Blackshear to be close to home so his parents wouldn’t have to travel far to see him play. It helped that younger brother Kenan signed a letter of intent to play for former Florida assistant Dusty May at Florida Atlantic. Boca Raton is a little more than two hours down the Turnpike from Orlando and Gainesville can be reached in a little less than two hours on the Turnpike and I-75.

Blackshear got positive input from Jalen Hudson, who transferred to UF from Virginia Tech following the 2015-16 season. Blackshear was a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech that season.

With the addition of Blackshear, widely considered the single most important transfer nationally both undergraduate and graduate, the Gators go from what was expected to be a top 25 team to one that could seriously contend for the Final Four. What has been missing at UF since John Egbunu went down with a knee injury in 2017 is a post presence who can score. Blackshear gives the Gators a consistent scorer from the low blocks as well as a good enough jump shooter that opponents won’t be able to sag the defense and clog the paint.

When posting up down low, Blackshear will command a lot of double teams and that should open things up for shooters like Noah Locke and Tre Mann. When he sets up at the high post or on the perimeter, it should create excellent pick and pop situations for point guard Andrew Nembhard as well as open lanes to the rim for slashers like Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson.

With Blackshear on the team, it takes the pressure off Gorjok Gak, Dontay Bassett and Isaiah Stokes, who won’t have to play starter’s minutes. It will also allow freshman bigs Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh to develop at their own pace.

Blackshear gives the Gators 13 on scholarship although Louisiana Tech transfer Anthony Durujii will have to sit out due to NCAA rules.

The 2019-20 Roster:

Freshmen (6): Ques Glover (6-0, 170); Jason Jitoboh (6-11, 280); * Alex Klatsky (6-2, 160); Scottie Lewis (6-5, 190); Tre Mann (6-4, 180); Omar Payne (6-9, 220)

*Walk-on

Sophomores (3): Andrew Nembhard (6-5, 191); Noah Locke (6-3, 205); Keyontae Johnson (6-6, 225)

Redshirt sophomores (1): Isaiah Stokes (6-8, 270)

Redshirt juniors (3): Gorjok Gak (6-11, 254); Dontay Bassett (6-9, 237); ** Anthony Durujii (6-8, 200)

** Transfer from Louisiana Tech; will sit out 2019-20

Redshirt senior/graduate: Kerry Blackshear Jr. (6-10, 252)

THE LIST FOR THURSDAY

Going on the road in the SEC is never easy, but some places are tougher than others. From first to worst, the toughest places to play in the SEC.

(Records since 2010 except Texas A&M and Missouri, which joined the SEC in 2012)

1. LSU (88-28; 54-8 at Tiger Stadium): This is the most intimidating place to play anywhere in the country. When the band blasts out “Hold That Tiger” you can almost feel the earth move. They start drinking in Baton Rouge on Wednesday before a game at Tiger Stadium and the game is an excuse to sober up for post game drinking. Of LSU’s eight losses at Tiger Stadium since 2010, four are to Alabama.

2. ALABAMA (113-13; 59-4 at Bryant-Denny Stadium): It’s bad enough that the players Alabama sends out on the field are so good, but the winning has made the crowds louder and more intimidating than ever before. As long as Nick Saban is the head coach this will be one of the two or three toughest places to play in America.

3. AUBURN (78-41; 52-14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium): This is how tough it is to play at Auburn. The Tigers are 52-14 at home since 2010 and 26-27 on the road.

4. GEORGIA (88-34; 50-8 at Sanford Stadium): The Bulldogs are 16-3 at home since Kirby Smart took over as head coach. They were 34-7 in the six previous years under Mark Richt so this has been a consistently tough place to play.

5. TEXAS A&M (60-31; 33-15 at Kyle Field): Now that Kyle Field has been transformed into a 102,000-seat palace, it’s a lot tougher place to win. It’s going to get tougher with Jimbo Fisher as the head coach.

6. FLORIDA (70-44; 41-17 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium): The Swamp once ranked right up there with Tiger Stadium as the most intimidating place to play in the country. From 1990-2001 UF lost only five home games. From 2005-09 the Gators lost only twice at home. Dan Mullen is bring back the intimidation factor. Winning will cure losing 17 home games in the last nine seasons.

7. MISSISSIPPI STATE (73-44; 44-15 at Davis-Wade Stadium): The Bulldogs are 44-15 at home since 2010 and 29-29 on the road. When the cowbells are ringing, those 61,000 fans sound like 90,000.

8. SOUTH CAROLINA (74-43; 47-15 at Williams-Brice Stadium): The 47-15 record is a little bit misleading since the Gamecocks were 26-2 at home from 2010-13 when Steve Spurrier was the head coach. They’re still good, but only 21-15 since then.

9. TENNESSEE (55-57; 39-25 at Neyland Stadium): Neyland lost its mojo about 15 years ago and it hasn’t gotten it back. It’s still a noisy place to play, but nobody loses at Neyland because they’re intimidated by the crowd.

10. MISSOURI (52-38; 30-18 at Memorial Stadium): This would be a lot tougher place to play if they routinely filled the stadium and the fans really got into it.

11. KENTUCKY (49-63; 37-27 at Kroger Field): Kentucky has gone 15-6 at home the last three seasons so the Wildcats are starting to develop a very nice home field advantage.

12. OLE MISS (56-56; 36-27 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium): Sometimes you get the feeling the fans would rather still be out in The Grove than they would inside the stadium.

13. ARKANSAS (56-57; 36-24 at Razorback Stadium and War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock): Frank Broyles probably rolls over in his grave to think that nobody is particularly frightened when the faithful call the Hogs. There was a time when that made other teams quake.

14. VANDERBILT (50-63; 33-28 at Vanderbilt Stadium): When it’s an SEC home game the visiting team usually has more fans in the stadium than Vandy. It’s a rotten stadium and the fan base is pretty passive. The band ranks among the worst in all of college football, too.

Friday: Toughest SEC schedules for August/September.

SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY

From ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, reporting on the NCAA decision to restrict transfer waivers:

“Schools now must prove an athlete’s transfer is “due to documented extenuating, extraordinary and mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete’s control” in order to have a waiver approved, according to the updated guidelines obtained by ESPN. Previously, guidelines required just “documented, mitigating circumstances,” a phrase that many think led to an increase in approvals of waiver requests.

The council met this week at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. In a news release, the NCAA described the adjustments as “minor” and “intended to clarify the requirements, prompt more involvement from athletic directors and give guidance to members as they submit waivers.” Recent approvals and denials of waiver requests have brought enhanced attention to the process, which many in college sports have criticized for a lack of transparency.”

From Stewart Mandel of The Athletic writing about how the NCAA’s new transfer guidelines prove once again the organization is clueless:

“At this point you may be wondering, why was there ever a requirement that transfers sit out a year in the first place? Well, the supposed reasoning is this: Athletes who change schools need time to adjust to life at their new university. In NCAA parlance this is referred to as an “academic year in residence.” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby invoked those noble origins in declaring recently that all transfers should “sit out (a year) and get acclimated and then have a chance to get a year back by graduating.”

“You’d still have transfers, but you’d have transfers that are less purely for athletic reasons,” he said.

This of course insinuates that athletes should at all times prioritize academics. Just like the schools and conferences do when they send their players on a 2,000-mile road trip to play a night game in the middle of the week because ESPN2 has a time slot available then. Or when a coach schedules 6 a.m. workouts, followed by 8 a.m. meetings, then sends the players off to classes but expects them back by 4 p.m. for practice.”

From attorney Thomas Mars, who has helped several football players get a transfer waiver from the NCAA:

“The long-term solution to this problem is blindingly obvious. The legislative council should scrap the incomprehensible waiver guidelines and replace them with a rule allowing every student-athlete to transfer one time without penalty.”

SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF

LSU has received a letter of inquiry regarding allegations that the father of offensive lineman Vadal Alexander received $180,000 from a booster. Alexander played for LSU from 2012-15. Since this happened well before Ed Orgeron became the head coach and Alexander has been gone for four years, it should be interesting to see how hard the NCAA comes down on LSU. It is expected LSU will receive a notice of allegations from the NCAA regarding its basketball program sometime in the next two weeks.

Coach O says new AD Scott Woodward is a recruiting junkie. “He’s big into recruiting,” Coach O said at a stop on the barbecue and beer booster circuit in Metairie, Louisiana. “He comes to our recruiting office. He knows all about our recruits. Very knowledgeable, even put me on a couple of recruits. I think he’s fantastic.”

Now that he’s been dismissed from the Georgia football team, wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Holloman was booted from the team after he was accused of aggravated assault and battery against a woman.

Tickets on the secondary market for the Belk Kickoff Classic in Charlotte between North Carolina and South Carolina are as low as $80 on the secondary resale market.

Former Ole Miss and Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville has a solid lead among Republican candidates for the US Senate seat that will be up for grabs in the 2020 election.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Kevin Durant declined his $31.5 million option with the Golden State Warriors and will become an unrestricted free agent. Expected landing spots are the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Durant can dign a 4-year dear worth $164 million on the free agent market … The UConn board of trustees has approved the move back to the Big East for basketball purposes. There was no announcement regarding football although the American Athletic Conference won’t allow UConn to be a football-only member … Bob Ley announced his retirement from ESPN. He was there at the beginning of the network and won 11 Emmy awards … Vanderbilt whacked Michigan, 8-2, Wednesday night to win its second NCAA baseball championship, its first since 2013.