KU earns commitment of transfer guard Riley Kugel

photo by: AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

Florida's Riley Kugel, left, shoots past Missouri's Aidan Shaw, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Updated 3:07 p.m. Sunday:

The Kansas men’s basketball team picked up its first transfer of the offseason on Easter Sunday when former Florida guard Riley Kugel announced that he will join the Jayhawks next year.

Kugel, a native of Orlando, Florida, averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Gators as a sophomore during the 2023-24 season, a slight scoring downturn after a breakout first year that had earned him NBA Draft attention and Southeastern Conference all-freshman honors.

The 6-foot-5 guard picked the Jayhawks as his new team over a prestigious set of finalists that included Arizona, Houston and UConn, a group he had revealed on Thursday.

KU will hope to get him going back in the right direction in his junior year, as when it’s going well for Kugel, he can drive into the paint with strength and swiftness and drain high-arcing shots from deep.

Kugel included in his commitment post on X a pair of photos that showed him wearing KU gear as a child. After his commitment Sunday afternoon, he told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that he was a KU fan when he was younger and lived in Overland Park for a couple years.

“To be honest, Kansas was always my dream school growing up,” Kugel told Wildeboor. “I mean, it was kind of a no-brainer. Once I had the opportunity to play for Bill Self, it was a no-brainer.”

He attended Doctor Phillips High School in Orlando, where he played with former Jayhawk Ernest Udeh Jr. A four-star prospect, he was initially committed to Mississippi State before picking the Gators at the end of his high school tenure.

His freshman year in Gainesville included a hot-shooting conclusion to the year in which he averaged 17.3 points in his final 10 games.

By the same time the following year, though, he was coming off the bench or at times not playing at all. The AP recently wrote of Kugel that as a sophomore, “he often looked lost on the court and disengaged on the bench. TV cameras caught him brushing off teammates and coaches. Coach Todd Golden had him coming off the bench by the end of December and playing fewer and fewer minutes the deeper the Gators got into the season. He eventually ended up out of the mix and clearly out of favor.”

Kugel will get a fresh start in Lawrence, where the Jayhawks need immediate help at guard alongside Dajuan Harris Jr.

“I feel like I have an overall game,” Kugel told JayhawkSlant. “I feel like I’m a three-level scorer. I can score beyond the arc, I can finish at the rim, and I can also make plays for my teammates, as well as play defense. I feel like I have the whole package. I just put my faith in Coach Bill Self and I know that he can lead me in the right direction for me to take my game to the next step.”

KU had three scholarship players exhaust their eligibility but has not yet had any players enter the transfer portal as of Sunday afternoon.

Lawrence native Zeke Mayo, another guard who is transferring from South Dakota State, listed the Jayhawks in his final four schools along with Creighton, Oklahoma and Texas on Saturday. Then 247Sports reported that Mayo will visit KU unofficially on Tuesday.

photo by: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Florida guard Riley Kugel (2) walks off the court after a first-round college basketball game against Colorado in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in Indianapolis. Colorado won 102-100.


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