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Florida’s John Egbunu will not seek sixth year of eligibility

The Gators’ biggest man is going pro.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday afternoon, Florida Gators center John Egbunu hinted at the end of his playing days in Gainesville in an Instagram post with no caption that reused Florida’s Senior Day graphic for him.

On Tuesday, we got confirmation — from The Gainesville Sun reporter Kevin Brockway and Florida staff writer Chris Harry — that Egbunu’s semi-cryptic post was what it seemed: An official announcement that he would not seek a sixth year of eligibility to play for Florida in 2018-19, and will instead pursue professional basketball.

Harry should definitely charge his phone.

Egbunu is choosing to forgo the process of getting a sixth year of eligibility through petitioning the NCAA — something that might well have been successful in his case — after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Auburn in February 2017 and not being able to make a successful return to game action in 2017-18. Egbunu returned to practice with the Gators in January, but swelling in his knee left him reportedly unable to do much more than simple drills or deal with the discomfort that would come with air travel with the team.

Egbunu also had a procedure performed in February by famed sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews, but even that was insufficient to get him back on the floor in orange and blue.

Egbunu is still 6’11” and solidly built at over 250 pounds, and showcased great shot-blocking instincts throughout his collegiate career with Florida and USF, also developing into a stellar individual defender as a Gator. His offensive game was largely limited to dunks, however, and his athleticism never translated into the enormous rebounding numbers some dreamed he could put up.

But Egbunu was also one of Florida’s most athletically gifted players from about the moment he decided to transfer to Florida prior to the last year of Billy Donovan’s time in Gainesville, and that athleticism alone — if it is not eroded by injury — could get him a long look from the NBA, despite his missing more than a full season of college hoops. And even a diminished Egbunu could also very well play pro basketball outside of the United States for several years based on size and athleticism alone.

Florida suffered inside without Egbunu in 2017-18, with Kevarrius Hayes often seeming overmatched as a starting center and Egor Koulechov often made to play power forward by Egbunu’s absence, but the Gators will return Hayes and Gorjok Gak from the 2017-18 roster this fall, and should be able to deploy redshirt freshman Isaiah Stokes, who sat out the 2017-18 season while recovering from his own knee injury.

Florida might also very well be in the market for a graduate transfer big man who could start immediately, though potential targets for that spot are yet to be determined.