Florida coach Billy Donovan knew the Gators could struggle to find scoring from their big men this season. Jon Horford and Chris Walker aren’t capable of catching the ball in the post and scoring with their back to the basket routinely, and both have been inconsistent defensively around the basket.
When he’s right, Walker can provide rim protection, but the duo is only averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. Horford will be gone next season and Walker could elect to start his professional career, but John Egbunu should be ready to help the Gators around the rim next season. The USF transfer is sitting out this year because of the NCAA transfer rules but will be eligible for the start of the 2015-16 season.
“He’s a monster,” Florida guard Eli Carter said about Egbunu. “I wish he could play (this year), honestly. He’ll be a great addition to us next year. He’s big. He helps us a lot with the physicality in practice. He pushes everyone. Our big guys never take the day off.”
Donovan said that Egbunu is going to be able to help Florida next season. Freshman guard Brandone Francis, who is sitting out this season because of academic issues, is now practicing. Donovan said the guard “has a long way to go” but can also help the Gators next season.
DeVon Walker is sitting out because of a torn ACL but will be back for next season and help improve the perimeter defense. Walk-on Schuyler Rimmer, a 6-10 forward transfer from Stanford, will also give the Gators another big body next season.
But Donovan has been through this before.
In recent years when transfers are sitting out from games but working on the court in practice, their legend grows. It started years ago when Georgetown big man Vernon Macklin transferred and rumors of a massive impact started to surface from practice. The same happened with other transfers in recent years -- Eli Carter, Dorian Finney-Smith and Mike Rosario. When they aren’t visible to anyone but coaches and players, their legend and expectations grow above what they’re actually able to produce.
“I think when you are in the situation we’re in right now, it looks like Dwight Howard, LeBron and Kobe,” Donovan joked. “Guys are never as good as people make them out to be when they are sitting out. And I think the expectation part gets way, way too high. Certainly I think we all saw that with Chris Walker sitting out in terms of the expectation.
“The legend grows every day that goes by. I don’t believe in that. How much they can help, I really don’t know. I like coaching them. I like having them in our program. But I’m not prepared to put that kind of pressure and expectation on those guys when they really haven’t done anything since they’ve been here.”
Add in the 2015 class with signees Noah Dickerson and Kevarrius Hayes and commitments Kevaughn Allen and Keith Stone, and the Gators have multiple newcomers that could make an impact next season. But Donovan isn’t expecting a massive leap in production simply because the players are new.