Riley Kugel enters transfer portal: Florida guard, Todd Golden’s top recruit out after two seasons

By Staff
March 27, 2024
Riley Kugel enters transfer portal: Florida guard, Todd Golden’s top recruit out after two seasons

Image Credit: UAA

It was a precipitous fall from grace for heralded guard Riley Kugel, who has decided to leave the Florida Gators and enter the transfer portal after two seasons with the program. Kugel, who had a breakout freshman campaign and entered the 2023-24 season looking like he would be Florida’s star player, struggled with consistency despite having individual breakout performances in his second year.

He will now be searching for a new home.

“I’m thankful to Gator Nation for nothing but love and support over these past two years,” Kugel wrote on social media Wednesday as part of his announcement. “It’s been fun, and I appreciate everyone who has supported me through thick and thin. … With that being said, I will be entering the transfer portal.”

The No. 56 overall player in the Class of 2022, Kugel was head coach Todd Golden’s first high school signee. Amid concerns about his ability to academically qualify, he put his nose to the grindstone and earned an opportunity at Florida; the result was an excellent first year in the orange & blue.

Kugel averaged 9.9 points while shooting 45.6% in 23.0 minutes per game during his first season, but he blossomed late in the campaign when Colin Castleton went down with an injury, averaging 18.5 points over his last six games while shooting 45.4% from 3-point range. During many contests, he was the lone bright spot for the Gators.

He achieved numerous point-scoring achievements not seen at Florida since Bradley Beal (the last player to depart after one season for the NBA Draft), including becoming the first freshman since Beal to score double digit points in 10 straight games.

Golden said Kugel had a “fantastic” offseason after tackling a detailed plan to improve in Year 2, praising his guard’s consistency on the court and strength that developed in the weight room.

Unfortunately, expected improvement never came to fruition in Year 2. Kugel started the first 11 games of the season before Golden decided to play him off the bench. His averages dipped to 9.2 points on 39.4% shooting this season, and there were numerous games in which he played limited minutes, if at all. He only scored in double digits twice over the last 11 games he played.

There was clearly a disconnect between Golden and Kugel throughout the season, most likely due to miscues on the court and occasions in which it did not appear Kugel was playing team basketball. He did have some bright spots down the stretch, and there were numerous big games in which he stepped up, played important minutes and made key contributions.

It’s clear a change of scenery was needed for Kugel, and he now has the opportunity to start fresh with two years of eligibility remaining.

Florida is not expected to have significant transfer portal turnover this season, unlike Golden’s first campaign. Kugel joins redshirt seniors point guard Zyon Pullin and forward Tyrese Samuel — both of whom exhausted their eligibility — as players not returning to the Gators in 2024-25.

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