Every time the Gator basketball team takes the floor and big man John Egbunu isn’t with them, the chances that he will suit up this season diminish. After tearing his ACL last February against Auburn, Egbunu underwent surgery and was projected to return around mid-January. That didn’t happen.
Then came yesterday’s development, one that reduced those chances down to near zero. Florida athletic trainer Dave Werner told Gatorsports.com that though he still maintains hope for Egbunu to play this season, he may need a second procedure done on his knee in the near future- an indication that either the first surgery to repair his torn ACL was unsuccessful or that his comeback was rushed.
Werner may just being optimistic. He may seriously think Egbunu should return at some point this year. Or he may really have no idea, as setbacks within a rehabilition are difficult if not impossible to predict ahead of time, and Egbunu has already suffered several of them in his.
But we have reached the point in time where John Egbunu cannot he counted on to produce at a high level this season, and that we have to accept this current team as the team that Mike White will have the rest of the season. Even if he does return to the active roster, he’s not going to be able to give the Gators 30 quality minutes right off the bat. History clearly tells us that.
How Florida and Egbunu want to play their respective cards remains to be seen. The Gators absolutely adore their Nigerian big man, and would love to see him back next season. At this juncture, I would be shocked if the prevailing thinking from the Florida side would be anything other than to shut him down for the year and get a full season out of him in 2018-19. That thinking is because Egbunu will almost certainly be granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA if he never does see the court this year… that is, if he opts to pursue it.
Egbunu very well may opt to try his hand at the professional level. Though not the instant impact pro prospect most people suggest you be before declaring early for the NBA Draft, Egbunu’s motor and guts may very well land him a spot on a summer league or a G League team. He could also try to play on another continent, whether that’s the Euroleague, Australia, China or even back somewhere in Africa, as he might realize that injuries could strike at any time, so if he’s going to suffer one, he may as well get paid for it.
The primary focus, though, has to be on this particular team, in this particular season. And as much as it hurts to say, Egbunu can’t be relied on to be a functional part of it.