Florida senior center Kerry Blackshear Jr. has a sprained wrist that has his status uncertain for this week’s SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound grad transfer from Virginia Tech sustained the injury in the first half of Saturday’s 71-70 loss vs. Kentucky. He tried to play early in the second half, but UF head coach Mike White quickly removed him and he didn’t return.
His absence was crucial at crunch time when UK’s Nick Richards took over in the paint to spark the Wildcats to an improbable comeback win from an 18-point, second-half deficit.
An MRI and X-rays came back negative, but they revealed a sprained ligament in his left (non-shooting) wrist.
Blackshear is averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Gators, who missed out on a double bye due to Saturday’s loss to Kentucky. Therefore, Florida is the No. 5 seed and will face the winner of Ole Miss vs. Georgia in the second game of Thursday’s afternoon session.
If the Gators advance, they’ll get a revenge game vs. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rallied from a 16-point deficit to win at Florida during the regular season.
Florida trainer Dan Werner told long-time UF beat writer Chris Harry that Blackshear will not practice at all this week and that swelling and pain will determine if he can go.
At his post-game presser after the loss to Kentucky, White said, “‘KJ’ is one of the toughest guys — maybe the toughest — on our team. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever coached. He hasn’t missed a practice all year and has battled different things, including illness at times, and won’t take a rep off. When he walked over to the sideline a couple minutes into the second and said, ‘I can’t go,’ I knew it must’ve been really hurting him.”
Without Blackshear, Kentucky dominated the boards by a 19-7 rebounding margin in the second half. Richards had 17 points and five rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
If Blackshear can’t go, extra playing time will go to true freshmen Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh, in addition to fourth-year junior Dontay Bassett.
DraftKings has Kentucky as a +175 favorite to win the SEC Tournament. The next-shortest odds belong to Auburn (+280), LSU (+500), Florida (+700), Mississippi State (+1400) and Tennessee (+2000).
ESPN’s bracket guru Joe Lunardi currently has the Gators as a ninth seed facing Saint Mary’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, Bracketville, which is ranked No. 1 in ‘Bracketology’ accurateness according to BracketMatrix, has UF as a part of his ‘Last Four Byes’ as a No. 10 seed facing No. 7 Michigan.
The Wolverines eliminated the Gators from the 2019 NCAA Tournament in the second round.