Florida head coach Todd Golden has already won his most important recruiting battle of the offseason. That task was convincing Riley Kugel to stay in school for a second season and bypass entering the 2023 NBA Draft.
Kugel announced Tuesday that he was doing just that with this post to his social-media accounts:
As a true freshman, Kugel averaged 9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.8 steals per game. He made 45.6 of his field-goal attempts, 37.6 percent of his 3-pointers and 66.3 percent of his free throws.
However, those numbers don’t do Kugel justice, especially when considering that he only started 17 of 32 games, averaging 23.0 minutes per contest.
Kugel turned it on down the stretch and became UF’s primary scorer after Colin Castleton went down with a season-ending injury. He scored at least 12 points in the Gators’ last 10 games, averaging 17.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 APG.
In fact, Kugel played so well that it quickly became a concern that he might turn pro early. In its latest mock draft posted on March 24, NBADraft.net has him going in the first round at No. 24 overall. Nevertheless, Kugel isn’t going anywhere.
“It just makes sense,” Kugel told Swamp247 about his return on Tuesday evening. “I feel like my story isn’t done in college. I feel like there’s a lot I have to accomplish.”
247Sports had Kugel ranked as the nation’s No. 83 overall prospect and the No. 8 shooting guard coming out of Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando as a four-star prospect.
He lived up to that billing, especially once he saw his minutes increased in SEC play. Kugel was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team, averaging 12.6 PPG during conference games while hitting 51.6 percent of his FGAs and 40.7 percent of his treys.
“They want me to have an even bigger role this year because the leadership, it has to come,” Kugel told Swamp247. “I’m not that much of a talkative person but that’s got to change. I need to be a leader by example. It starts by working hard every day.”
In addition to Castleton, UF is losing Myreon Jones and Kyle Lofton to graduation. Five players have already entered the portal, including Jaston Jitoboh, Kowacie Reeves, Trey Bonham, Neils Lane and CJ Felder.
The Gators have already added Yale transfer EJ Jarvis, who averaged 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game for the Bulldogs in 2022-23. They also have two incoming freshmen in Thomas Haugh and Aussie center Alex Condon.
UF is reportedly in the mix for several notable transfers, including ex-Iona point guard Walter Clayton, the reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Micah Handlogten (Marshall) and Conference USA Player of the Year Tylor Perry (North Texas).
UF has 100/1 odds to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament at FanDuel.