The World University Games in Taiwan are a chance for college athletes to represent their nations in various team and individual sports.
And this year, three countries — Australia, Israel and Sweden — boast Gators men’s and women’s basketball players.
Since the preliminary rounds of the tournament began on Aug. 21, three Gators have earned playing time representing their homeland.
Sophomore center Gorjok Gak, who averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds for Florida in his freshman campaign, has represented Australia in two games throughout the tournament so far.
Gak, from Sydney, Australia, netted six points and four rebounds in 11 minutes of action in an 80-76 loss to Ukraine on Sunday.
The following day, Gak’s playing time more than doubled, as he poured in eight points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
Gak showed improvement throughout his first collegiate campaign in the 2016-17 season and continued to make progress in the NCAA Tournament. His upside lies in his ability to anchor a defense with his size and crash the boards consistently.
And with redshirt senior center John Egbunu likely sidelined until January, Gak could see minutes at center behind junior Kevarrius Hayes.
A Gator newcomer also shined in the international spotlight. Graduate transfer and former Rice standout Egor Koulechov followed up a four-point performance in Israel’s first game against Lithuania with an 18-point game Monday against Russia. In the 107-80 blowout, the 6-foot-5 guard also grabbed six rebounds, with three coming on offense.
Florida head coach Mike White showed an affinity for using larger guards off the bench last season. Canyon Barry served that role and became Florida’s go-to man for off-the-bench offense. Koulechov shares the same size and shooting touch, lighting up Russia with four three-pointers in five attempts.
For his career, Koulechov showed his mettle from distance with a 39.8-percent three-point stroke, fourth on Rice’s all-time list.
On the women’s side of the tournament, graduate transfer Paulina Hersler played just under 14 minutes for Sweden on Monday, registering seven points and two rebounds in an 85-57 win over Hungary.
On Tuesday, Hersler collected four points, three rebounds and two assists in a 65-58 losing effort against Chinese Taipei.
While the Gators women’s team enters a year of transition with first-year head coach Cam Newbauer, it hopes to get the most out of Hersler. The Malmo, Sweden, native helped the UCLA Bruins to a Sweet 16 appearance with averages of 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Based on their World University performances, Gator athletes have a chance to play crucial roles when they return from overseas for their 2017-2018 seasons.