John Egbunu

Center John Egbunu has not played in a game this season due to a knee injury.  

Alligator File Photo

At the beginning of the regular season, Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White relayed to the media what team doctors were telling him about injured center John Egbunu. Late January was the targeted time period for the redshirt senior’s return.

I know a lot of people like to forget it’s the middle of February because of the lack of love they’re receiving (me included).

But we’re here folks. And Egbunu has walked into every game in sweatpants and a hoodie.  

Gator fans are still holding their breath with anticipation, awaiting the big man’s return. Hell, I was excited to see how the dynamic of the team would change with a wide center like Egbunu in White’s arsenal.

But with only five SEC games remaining after Florida’s most recent choke against the Georgia Bulldogs, adding a new player into the rotation might cause more trouble than it’s worth.

‘What? You’re an idiot, bro. Egbunu would finally give Florida the big man they’ve desperately needed all year long. Anyone that thinks him coming back isn’t a positive sucks at existing.’

First of all, imaginary angry Florida fan, I’m only slightly idiotic. Secondly, I said it might be more trouble than it’s worth.

The Gators have become acclimated to playing small when they need to through some recent SEC contests. LSU managed just 22 paint points in its Feb. 7 loss, while committing 16 turnovers as Florida’s guards actively attacked the passing lanes. Three nights later, South Carolina shot 27.8 percent and scored 18 points in the lane on its way to a 61-42 loss at the hands of the Gators.

Florida also played a solid half of defense against Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to 34.8 percent shooting in the first frame. Let’s just forget about the collapse in the second half because that hurts my argument, and you already know that confirmation bias is a viable method of argument.

After struggling to get its roster engaged on the defensive end, UF looks like it has devoted as much, if not more energy on that end of the court through its latest stretch of games.

The last thing I’ll say is this – White has already done his fair share of shifting. We’ve seen a variety of starting lineups based on the opponent matchup. Sometimes it’s worked, and other times, it really hasn’t.

Adding Egbunu to the mix might stunt the growth of Florida’s big men who are already playing, such as freshman Dontay Bassett and sophomore Gorjok Gak. It’s also asking a guy who can’t even get through multiple practices without his knee swelling up to kick it into high gear immediately as the home stretch of games and SEC Tournament get going over the next couple weeks.

Egbunu’s best bet might be seeking a medical redshirt to get a sixth year of eligibility if that’s possible. With the way this year is going, adding him this late could create yet another issue, and this year might not even be worth bringing him back when he’s truly not ready.

Skyler Lebron is a sports writer at the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @SkylerLebron and contact him at [email protected].

Skyler Lebron is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. Throughout five semesters with the Alligator, he has covered Cross Country, Volleyball, Softball and now covers Men's Basketball. Skyler is also