Ex-UF guard Riley Kugel commits to Kansas

Ex-UF guard Riley Kugel commits to Kansas

Published on Thursday, 3/28/24, at 3:37 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Thursday, 4/4/24, at 7:28 a.m. Eastern.

UPDATE: After initially naming four schools – Kansas, UConn, Arizona and Houston – as the finalists he was considering transferring to from Florida, Riley Kugel ended up committing to Kansas. 

Riley Kugel announced Wednesday that he was leaving the Florida Gators after two seasons to enter the transfer portal.

Then earlier today, the rising junior said that he’s focusing on four potential landing spots, including Houston, Kansas, UConn and Arizona. 

As a true freshman at UF, Kugel started 17 of 32 games and played 23.0 minutes per game. The 6-foot-5, 207-pound wing averaged 9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.8 steals per game.

Kugel hit 45.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, 37.6 percent of his 3-pointers and 66.3 percent of his free throws.

However, Kugel came on strong late in the 2022-23 campaign. In fact, after star center Colin Castleton went down with a season-ending injury, Kugel became the focal point of Florida’s offense.

He answered the call by scoring in double figures in each of the Gators’ last 10 games. Kugel produced scoring outputs of 15, 18, 12, 17, 24, 20, 19, 21, 14 and 13 points.

In a 77-67 win at Georgia, Kugel had 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. Then in a 79-67 home win vs. LSU, he finished with 21 points on 8-of-14 FGAs.

Kugel’s late-season surge actually led him to briefly test the NBA waters before electing to return to school. He was named to the preseason second-team All-SEC team this past October.

Kugel led UF to a season-opening win over Loyola-Maryland by producing 23 points, six steals, four assists, three rebounds and one blocked shot. He also made 10-of-15 FGAs.

In back-to-back losses vs. Baylor and at Wake Forest, Kugel had 25 points and nine rebounds against the Bears and 24 points and five boards against the Demon Deacons.

From there, however, Kugel failed to score in double digits in three of the next four games. In an 11-point effort vs. Richmond, he hit only 4-of-16 FGAs, and then he was 1-of-6 from the field in a non-covering win over East Carolina.

Kugel made just 9-of-40 FGAs in UF’s last four non-conference games, but he played well in the Gators’ SEC opener. He had 15 points and four rebounds in just 23 minutes of an 87-85 home loss to Kentucky.

But in a 103-85 loss at Ole Miss four days later, Kugel was benched for the entire second half after playing only four minutes in the first half. He missed all three of his shots against the Rebels and didn’t record any other stats.

But Kugel responded three days later in a 90-68 home win over Arkansas, scoring 20 points and snagging five rebounds while draining 8-of-14 FGAs and 2-of-3 launches from 3-point range.

He had 12 points in 32 minutes of an 85-66 loss at Tennessee, but Kugel then went four consecutive games without reaching double figures. He played only 19, 19 and 21 minutes in three of those victories.

Kugel seemed to be back on track when he had 12 points in a 67-66 loss at Texas A&M before erupting for 22 points in an 81-65 win over Auburn.

However, Kugel went 3-of-8 and 2-of-10 on FGAs in the next two games, scoring six and five points in those contests.

Nevertheless, the Gators were rolling with seven wins in their last eight games going into Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Even though the game went to OT, Kugel played only three minutes and contributed just one rebound and one turnover.

After UF lost 98-93 in OT to the Crimson Tide, it returned home and beat Vanderbilt, 77-64. Kugel logged merely six minutes and had only two points and one rebound.

His streak of single-digit scoring outings extended to five straight games in an 83-74 win over Missouri when he had only three points.

But in a big game at South Carolina, Kugel got more minutes (30) than he’d been given since UF’s OT win at Kentucky eight games beforehand. He responded with 10 points and five rebounds and made a tying 3-ball at crunch time.

It’s important to note that throughout the ups and downs of a disappointing sophomore campaign for Kugel personally, he remained upbeat and happy for his teammates who were enjoying a stellar Year 2 of the Todd Golden Era.

But after taking two DNP’s at the SEC Tournament in the semifinals and the finals, it seemed likely that Kugel’s days as a Gator were winding down.

Nevertheless, he played well when given 21 minutes of action in UF’s soul-crushing 102-100 loss to Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He contributed 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and one block, but he should’ve had two blocks.

It was the story (piss-poor calls, mostly by veteran Mtn. West official Eric Curry) for the Gators against the Buffs, as Kugel’s clean block was inexplicably whistled for a foul.

Kugel ended up starting 11 of 33 games in 2023-24 and playing 23.4 minutes per game. He averaged 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game, but he made just 39.4 percent of his FGAs and 31.2 percent of his 3’s.