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Gap Year: After missing 2016-17 season, why VT’s Kerry Blackshear may be the ACC’s Most Improved Player

When it’s time to have the conversation for Most Improved Player in the ACC — maybe we’re already there — it’s imperative to mention the name of Kerry Blackshear.

Buzz Williams and Virginia Tech ask a lot of Blackshear — the only player in VT’s rotation taller than 6-foot-6. When Blackshear isn’t in foul trouble — he averages five fouls per 40 minutes — the redshirt sophomore answers the call darn near every time.

 

Welcome Back

After missing the entire 2016-17 season due to a leg injury, Kerry Blackshear has evolved into one of the ACC’s best offensive frontcourt players.

Blackshear’s celebrating career highs in basically every category: minutes (24.9), rebound rate (15.1 percent), usage (23.2 percent), shooting (68.1 percent true shooting) and points (13.6).

In the win over Boston College, Blackshear led Virginia Tech with 20 points on 12 field goal attempts. Efficiency is the name of the game with the sophomore big. According to Synergy Sports, nearly 81 percent of Blackshear’s field goal attempts come at the basket. Surrounded by shooters, Blackshear is wildly efficient in this range.

Out of the pick-and-roll this season, Blackshear has shot 67.6 percent and scored 1.44 points per possession, per Synergy — No. 5 the nation (minimum 40 possessions). His usual tag team partner — point guard Justin Robinson — is one of the league’s top pick-and-roll distributors, too, which helps.

Robinson ranks fourth in the ACC in points created from a pass in the pick-and-roll — 164, per Synergy. The only players ahead of him are Markell Johnson (178), Frank Howard (175) and the injured Matt Farrell (171).

An excellent cutter, Blackshear is 53-of-73 (72.6 percent) on non-post-up attempts at the basket — 1.52 points per possession. Only Doral Moore of Wake Forest and Florida State’s Terance Mann have shot a higher clip on said possessions than Blackshear.

That’s right: in this category, Blackshear is slightly more efficient than Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Lennard Freeman and Bonzie Colson.

 

When teams collapse, though…

Only five players in the ACC this season average 12 points, shoot better than 40 percent on three-pointers and have a total rebound rate of at least 12 percent. The list: Luke Maye, Wendell Carter, Omer Yurtseven, Donte Grantham and Kerry Blackshear.

Blackshear certainly isn’t a volume shooter from deep; only 17 percent of his field goal attempts this season have come from beyond the arc. However, he’s shooting 46.4 percent on three-pointers. Like Florida State’s Phil Cofer, he’s expanded his horizons on offense in 2017-18.

According to Synergy, 18 percent of Blackshear’s field goal attempts in the half-court have been jump shots. Blackshear has connected on 51.9 percent of these attempts, with an effective shooting rate of 74.1 percent — second in the ACC.

Virginia Tech can already space out opposing defenses better than just about any offense in America; if Blackshear can step out and hit a jumper, it further widens lanes to the hoop for Chris Clarke to slash through.

Williams and the Hokies obviously want Blackshear at the rim, commanding attention in the paint. But these numbers — along with a 74.8 percent clip from the free throw line — forecast that Blackshear has even more potential as a stretch big.

 

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