About two weeks ago, after he was finished fielding questions from a throng of reporters at Florida’s Media Day, John Egbunu headed towards the exit with a layer of sweat coating his face.
"Why are you so sweaty?" one of his teammates asked as Egbunu walked out of the media room.
"I was scared, man," Egbunu replied jokingly.
In his first media appearance, UF’s 6-foot-11 center from Bauchi, Nigeria, was soft spoken and reserved. In his first full week of practice, Egbunu was anything but.
"His decibel level," coach Mike White said of the USF transfer, "you’ll hear it in the O’Dome."
White has made a concentrated effort to increase communication in practice. During informal summer practices, scrimmages were often too quiet.
"It was kind of dead, no one talked," forward Justin Leon said. "Compared to now, it’s a lot more vocal."
And no one is louder than Egbunu.
Florida’s big man has impressed coaches with his defensive instincts — covering pick and rolls and contesting every shot at the rim — as well as his offensive awareness, particularly in setting effective screens.
Egbunu has the potential to provide a paint presence that the Gators have sorely missed ever since the departure of center Patric Young in 2014.
"He’s an amazing defensive force," redshirt junior DeVon Walker said.
So much so that Egbunu earned a nickname through the first two days of full practices.
"Johnny Clinic," White said. "Through our defensive drills, he’s really put on a clinic. ... He was phenomenal."
For UF to have success, he may need to be. White said that a large amount of UF’s offense, particularly three-point shooting, will depend on how the Gators play in the paint.
If UF can draw the defense’s attention inside, more chances will be created for shooters.
"It’s definitely an emphasis," White said of three-point shooting. "A lot of the threes we take will depend upon how well we score in the interior, how often we can get to the foul line, how often we convert from the foul line. The guys that shoot it consistently in workouts and practices, if they have open looks, I want them to be aggressive."
The theme of Florida’s first week of practice, ignited by Egbunu last Monday and Tuesday, has been one of aggressive intensity.
Scrimmages have been fast and physical, much like the ones that former coach Billy Donovan ran in the past.
"I would say that he’s sustaining the culture that Coach D left," Walker said of White. "But he’s also putting his own stamp on it as well."
And at the center has been Egbunu, who may be quiet off the court, but the essence of energetic on it.
"Luckily," Leon said, "I don’t have to guard him."
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