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Florida lands Rice graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov

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The Gators pick up a sweet-shooting guard who should help immediately and extensively.

NCAA Basketball: Southern Mississippi at Rice Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball will lose no less than half of the rotation that carried them to the Elite Eight in 2017 this offseason, and may struggle more to replace those outgoing players’ scoring punch than anything else they brought to the court.

In landing Rice Owls graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, the Gators have made a major step toward replacing that firepower.

Koulechov committed to Florida on Tuesday night, with Scout’s Evan Daniels breaking the story. Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun reported on Tuesday morning that Florida head coach Mike White and assistant coach Dusty May would meet with Koulechov in the afternoon; Daniels reported Tuesday morning that Koulechov had finished his visits, and would decide between Florida and Oklahoma.

Koulechov also tweeted about his commitment, shortly after Daniels and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported his transfer.

In picking the Gators over former Florida coach Lon Kruger, Koulechov gives White’s program an impact graduate transfer for the second straight year — and one that might be better even than Canyon Barry was for the Gators.

Barry made himself an integral part of White’s rotation as a sixth man who played starter’s minutes in 2016-17, and dueled KeVaughn Allen for the team lead in scoring for much of the year prior to being dusted by Allen’s explosion against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. But Koulechov’s time at Rice compares favorably to Barry’s at the College of Charleston.

In three years as an Owl, Koulechov hit 39 percent of his threes, a mark that was better than any one compiled by Barry in his time as a Cougar — or a Gator. And Koulechov’s stellar shooting in 2016-17 — 45.8 percent from three, 81.6 percent from the line — came despite significantly more usage than most sharpshooters get. Koulechov’s percentage from deep was 26th nationally in 2016-17 — but only one of the 25 players ahead of him in the statistic shot more threes than he did.

And that player was Wooden Award winner Frank Mason.

Koulechov averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season, figures that would have led Florida by significant margins. But his numbers are likely to be somewhat diminished in the Gators’ system, with his rebounds especially likely to dip by virtue of him shifting from frequently playing as the biggest guard in four-guard lineups to often playing shooting guard or small forward.

More impressive are Koulechov’s rate and shooting stats, which have him gathering a larger share of defensive rebounds than any Gator in 2016-17, and beating every Florida player but the post-planted Kevarrius Hayes in true shooting and effective field goal percentage.

Those numbers stand a far better chance of translating than his raw per game totals, especially given that Rice averaged about four more possessions per game than Florida. And if they do, Koulechov could very well compete with Allen to be Florida’s leading scorer — and, consequently, most important player — in 2017-18.

Koulechov will have one year to play one season of eligibility as a redshirt senior. The Russian native previously committed to Arizona State as a member of the high school class of 2013, and transferred to Rice after his freshman season in Tempe, sitting out the 2014-15 season before playing his last two for the Owls.