In the final installment of player report cards, we'll look at and grade the rest of the frontcourt.
Kerry Blackshear Jr.
A four-star recruit from Orlando, FL, Blackshear progressed nicely as his freshman season came to a close. After last season, the Hokies were in desperate need of a young, talented big man that could be a cornerstone for the foreseeable future, and it looks like Blackshear will be that guy. Blackshear came to Blacksburg with a European-big-man style of play because his father played professionally overseas in Spain, but was forced to reinvent himself as Buzz wanted him to be more of a paint presence than a stretch-4. He's still transitioning into that mold, but you saw his potential offensively and defensively. Blackshear also has solid mobility for a 6-10 player, showing the ability to run the floor in transition which is one a great quality for a big to have.
Numbers-wise, Blackshear's stats aren't that impressive, but they were solid for a freshman who still has plenty of room to grow. The most important number for me is the rebounds. When Blackshear was on the floor, he was the Hokies' best rebounding threat due to his length, and the freshman had a good feel for where the ball was bouncing off the rim. That led to plenty of offensive rebounds as well as Blackshear averaged 1.6 offensive boards per game this season. Scoring the basketball wasn't something he was asked to do too often, but he chipped in with 6.2 PPG on just under 4 FGA per game. The freshman showed the ability to be a post technician, especially in the final game against BYU where he had put up 13 points on some nice post moves which required good footwork. Blackshear was also an excellent finisher around the rim when he couldn't flush it, which you don't always see from freshman bigs.
The one thing Blackshear should work to improve upon is his defense. He wasn't a bad defender but he has to learn how to do it without fouling. If Blackshear were to play the entire game, he would foul out about 30 minutes in according to his per 40 minutes stats. I think if Blackshear works on getting bigger and stronger, that problem will be diminished. He had to compensate for his below-average strength in the pain by playing more aggressive, which led to more fouls. No question that he's already identified that issue and has been working on it for a while because you could definitely see his confidence rise with his strength as the season wore on. I'm excited to see what year two in Blacksburg has in store for Blackshear, and I envision him as a starter as a sophomore with the Hokies.
Highlight of the year:
Hamilton came to Blacksburg as a JUCO transfer from Jacksonville College in Texas. As a 7-footer, the hope was that Hamilton would be a rim protector and a good rebounder and contribute solid minutes while Blackshear developed. However, Hamilton only appeared in 17 games and totaled 124 minutes of action. He wasn't a huge disappointment - it's hard to expect a lot of a JUCO transfer when he wasn't dominant at that level (averaged 9 P/9 R in JUCO).
Hamilton was impactful as a rebounder. He had a 17.1% Rebound Percentage which is above average. Interestingly, he had more rebounds on the offensive end than defensively (19 to 18). He didn't offer anything offensively, which is why he only attempted 1.5 FG per game, mostly on putbacks or easy dunks. Speaking of dunks, the big missed a lot more dunks than he should have. In the Louisville game, it seemed like there was an actual lid on the basket as Hamilton probably missed 2 or 3 in a single game. Like Blackshear, Hamilton should spend time developing his strength. Despite being two inches taller than Blackshear, Hamilton is actually listed at 230, a full ten pounds lighter than the freshman. That won't fly in the ACC, and was probably the reason Hamilton didn't see many minutes once conference games started.
Overall, Hamilton has the size but doesn't have the skill set or technical ability to be a force off the bench offensively. He'll remain a role player, and if he bulks up, he could at least provide solid defense and rebounding next season as the team will be without Satchel Pierce.
Highlight of the year: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=14662867
And our last player in this series, Zach LeDay. There's not much bad you can say about LeDay. He was the heart and soul of the team. He was the fiery and competitive leader that stepped up in big moments. He rebounds extremely well for his size. His 15.5 PPG led the team. He did the dirty work defensively, blocking 1.7 shots per game which is outstanding. All this comes from a player who averaged 3.5 PPG in his last season at USF.
Greatness and consistency go hand-in-hand, and LeDay truly exemplified that. He rarely had an off night. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of his non-conference production - I though his size would hold him back a little once he had to face off against ACC 4's and 5's, but that obviously wasn't the case. His competitiveness might be his greatest attribute. Other than the intangibles, LeDay was dangerous on offense due to his diverse skill set. LeDay got some tough baskets off offensive rebounds, averaging nearly 3 ORPG. He had more than a few buckets out of the post, although it looked a little awkward at times. But not as awkward as his shooting form which was surprisingly effective. LeDay shot 35.6% from beyond the arc, enough to keep defenses from leaving him wide open on the perimeter. On top of that, LeDay had the quickness to blow by defenders and get to the rim if they played too tight on him, using a quick pump fake to get his defender off-balance then driving right by him. One of the more underrated aspects of LeDay was his free throw shooting. He was the guy the Hokies wanted at the line to close games out, as he shot a solid 76% from the charity stripe.
LeDay's fire and competitiveness will keep him from regressing this offseason, and even though he had an outstanding season, there are some things he can clean up. One of these things is staying out of foul trouble. LeDay often found himself with 3 fouls within the first half or picked up his fourth foul before the second to last media timeout. Simply put, he's the team's best player and the Hokies can't afford to have him on the bench if they want to compete in the ACC next season. I'm going to be nitpicky here, but LeDay can also improve on the glass. As good as he was a rebounder last season, the Hokies were still eaten alive on the boards in plenty of games. If he can get his rebound totals to about 9 per game, that would help out a lot. LeDay can also improve with his off-hand. Yes, he did score a good amount of buckets with his left, but it was predictable when LeDay drove to the right. It became harder for him to score while driving to the right as the year went on, so developing his left hand would make him even more unstoppable next season.
Highlight of the year:
*all stats tables are courtesy of www.sports-reference.com/cbb