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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Florida men’s basketball at three commits from transfer portal so far in offseason

Former FAU guard Alijah Martin is the most recent commitment to UF from the transfer portal

Florida men’s basketball head coach Todd Golden coaches his team during a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, February 18, 2024.
Florida men’s basketball head coach Todd Golden coaches his team during a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, February 18, 2024.

On March 22, the Gators men’s basketball season came to an end after a narrow 102-100 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament. 

It was graduate student forward Tyrese Samuel and senior guard Zyon Pullin’s last game with the Gators, both of whom will be tough to replace. Pullin was an All-SEC First Team selection while Samuel started in all 36 games for the Gators.

“We're going to miss ZP and Tyrese a lot,” Golden said after the Colorado game. “They're going to be hard to replace.”

Furthermore, Riley Kugel announced he was transferring to the University of Kansas March 31, and guards Walter Clayton Jr. and Will Richard announced April 8 and 17, respectively, they’ll go through the NBA Draft process while maintaining their college eligibility.

Both Clayton Jr. and Richard will return to UF if they decide to forgo the NBA Draft. 

But Todd Golden has already gotten busy in the transfer portal. Last year, he brought in six transfers to join the roster: Pullin, Clayton Jr., Samuel, Micah Handlogten and Julian Rishwain. EJ Jarvis was also brought into the program via the portal, but he stepped away from basketball before the beginning of the 2023-24 season. 

So far, Golden has already received commitments from three transfers: FAU guard Elijah Martin, Washington State center Rueben Chinyelu and University of Tennessee at Chatanooga forward Sam Alexis. 

Martin highlights the transfer class so far, as he played a major role in FAU’s Final Four run in 2023. He announced his commitment April 21, and the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season. He shot 33.8% from 3 and shot over 30% from beyond the arc throughout his four years with the Owls. 

If Clayton Jr. decides to stay in the draft, Martin’s 3-point ability should make up for some of the success Clayton Jr. saw beyond the arc. If the former Iona transfer chooses to return, Martin and Clayton Jr. could become one of the best backcourt duos in the country. 

Additionally, Martin’s physicality will help replace Pullin’s absence. Pullin was a floor general and was able to back his defender down oftentimes to convert mid-range jumpers or layups. With Martin’s rebounding and ability to back smaller defenders down, it’s a perfect fit for him to do almost everything with the Gators. 

Alexis was the first transfer to announce his commitment to UF. It came April 13, and the sophomore originally from Apopka, Florida, averaged 10.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in last year’s campaign. 

"We are thrilled to welcome Sam into our program here at Florida," Golden said in a press release April 15. "He's a great young man who excels both on the court and in the classroom. With Sam being from Apopka, it's great to add another native Floridian to our group. He's already proven to be a great finisher, rebounder and rim protector, and we expect him to continue expanding his game on the offensive end."

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Alexis, along with Chinyelu, will join Handlogten, Alex Condon and Thomas Haugh in the frontcourt. And if there’s one thing certain, Golden’s squad will be loaded with height. Chinyelu stands at 6-foot-11, and although he averaged just 4.7 points per game, he brought down 5.0 rebounds and swatted 1.3 shots per game.  

“He is an ultra-talented young man who fits into the culture of our program seamlessly,” the head coach said. “He has fantastic tools on both the offensive and defensive end, and we expect him to make a big jump across the board as he enters his second collegiate season.”

Golden will have three players standing at 6-foot-11 or taller next season, an unfortunate look for an opposing team that attempts to get an easy shot in the paint. May hasn’t even started and Florida’s head coach has already found two bigs who can substitute Samuel’s physical play in the paint. 

The Gators are halfway to their total transfer recruits from last season, so expect Golden to keep utilizing the transfer portal before the 2024-25 season begins. 

“The goal is that these younger guys will continue to grow and get better, and we'll find guys that are the right fit with great attitudes and great work ethics and really will want to be Gators,” Golden said March 22. “We'll continue to build it that way because it's what I believe in and it's worked for us.”

Contact Bennett Solomon at Follow him on X @B_Soly11.

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