Florida received good news on Friday evening, as starting center John Egbunu has elected to return to Gainesville for his final season of eligibility, the program announced.
“I’m a Florida Gator in my heart, so I wanted another chance to come back and be a Gator,” Egbunu said in a statement. “I’ve graduated from here, and I love playing here, being a part of the culture and being with my teammates – it’s a fun team to be around. It’s also a chance for me to continue to improve and grow as a player and help the team, however, I can. And I can’t forget to mention how great it is to play in front of the Rowdies and all of our Gator fans.”
The 6-foot-11 center, who recently earned his undergraduate degree, had declared for the NBA Draft this spring.
Egbunu missed the final 10 games of the season, including Florida’s Elite Eight run, after tearing his ACL in a win over Auburn on February 14. The recovery was expected to take 10-12 months. The team hopes to get him back by mid-January.
He averaged 7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
The return of Egbunu, even if it isn’t until the start of conference play, is still a huge boost for the Gators. Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, and Kevarrius Hayes all return. Rice graduate transfer Egor Koulechov has joined the program, filling a scoring need after Caynon Barry exhausted his eligibility and Devin Robinson decided to pursue professional options.
NBC Sports has Florida as a top-10 team entering the 2017-18 season.
When former South Florida center John Egbunu made the decision to transfer to Florida, there was a sliver of hope that he would be granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. However that won’t be happening, as Florida head coach Billy Donovan announced Thursday that Egbunu will have to sit out the 2014-15 campaign per NCAA transfer rules.
The 6-foot-11 Egbunu averaged 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest at USF, earning American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team honors. Had Egbunu been declared eligible to play he would have provided Florida with even more front court depth, with returnees such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Chris Walker and Jacob Kurtz being joined by transfers Alex Murphy and Jon Horford and freshman Devin Robinson in the current front court rotation.
Not having Egbunu available isn’t a major blow to Florida, provided their big men not be hit by the injury bug (or have major disciplinary issues), and it should help both parties in the long run. Egbunu can get better acquainted with Donovan’s system with designs on having a significant role in the Florida front court next year, and he can also help Florida’s eligible big men get prepared for the upcoming campaign.
South Florida transfer John Egbunu is headed to Florida, according to multiple media reports.
Egbunu was one of the most highly-sought after big men on this year’s transfer market after averaging 7.4 points, 6.2 boards and 1.3 blocks this past season. The 6-foot-10 center picked the Gators over Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Georgetown. Arizona also showed interest, but opted to take Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson instead.
He’ll have to sit out the 2014-2015 season, but he will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015-2016. The hope is that he can spend a year redshirting and developing in Florida’s program and become a major contributor for the Gators.
Egbunu is one of five Bulls that transferred out of the South Florida program during their change in leadership. Stan Heath was let go and former Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua was brought in. Egbunu, who is a native of Nigeria, reportedly had his eligibility reviewed during the season.
Egbunu was the No. 83 recruit in the Class of 2013 coming out of high school. He’s the latest in a long line of big men — Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Jefferson, Alex Murphy — that have recently transferred into Florida.
For the fifth time since Stan Heath was dismissed as the South Florida head coach, a players has requested and been granted his release. The latest departure from the program is freshman center John Egbunu, the school announced on Tuesday evening.
The Bulls lost a pair of guards on Monday as Javontae Hawkins and Musa Abdul-Aleem left the program. Sophomore forward Zach LeDay decided to transfer on Saturday. Heath’s son, Josh, has since committed to Georgia Tech.
The 6-foot-10 Egbunu averaged 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in his lone season with South Florida. He committed to Heath as a four-star prospect, ranked No. 83 overall in the Class of 2013, according to Rivals. He’ll have three years of eligibility remaining after he sits out the 2014-2015 season, per NCAA transfer rules.
Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua agreed to fill the coaching vacancy on March 31.
On Tuesday, Mark Harlan, formerly of UCLA, was introduced as South Florida’s new athletic director. During his introductory comments, Harlan explained what his schedule held in the coming days, saying he would meet with student-athletes and “…listen, listen, listen … then evaluate. Then I will act. I want to learn what’s working, what’s not working, then make some decisions. There are some decisions that need to be made.” The next day, USF dropped a closely-contested AAC tournament game to Rutgers. While Harlan doesn’t officially start until April 7th, Harlan apparently listened and evaluated on Thursday before acting today, firing coach Stan Heath.
The Bulls aren’t devoid of talent, and this past season, one that resulted in a 12-20 record and the loss of Anthony Collins, USF’s star guard whose year was significantly cut short by injuries, was not totally dreadful. The team had three AAC wins, and did beat Alabama during the non-conference slate. Whoever is hired by Harlan will have a stacked roster entering the 2014-15 season, and USF clearly has the pieces to contend. Collins had been shut down for most of the year, and his improved health will be crucial. The freshmen frontcourt duo of Chris Perry and John Egbunu should take the sophomore leap and spend next year beasting other conference bigs, and the year of experience under Heath will benefit one of the nation’s youngest teams.