Our worst fears have officially been realized.
Florida center John Egbunu tore his ACL last night in the Gators’ 114-95 win over Auburn. Egbunu will miss the rest of the season, and possibly the beginning of next season as well, as ACL tears can take up to a year to fully heal.
Egbunu went down after going for a rebound, and had to be helped off the court after lying there for several minutes. He was able to eventually walk off to the locker room under his own power, a common sign of false hope for those who tear ACLs.
Without Egbunu, Florida will turn to Kevarrius Hayes, an extremely promising but relatively inexperienced sophomore, to play center. Hayes is averaging six points and four rebounds per game. Of course, those low numbers are due in large part to the fact that Hayes played significantly less than Egbunu. What’s more important is that Hayes has really shown some signs of growth in the last few weeks, so hope is by no means lost for the Gators moving forward.
But no matter how you want to spin it, this is a huge loss. The drop off from Egbunu to Hayes isn’t monumental, though it is significant in terms of experience. And now Florida is really thin at center, with only Stanford transfer Schuyler Rimmer to turn to behind Hayes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rimmer’s hustle and heart, but that only takes you so far when you square off against the likes of Kansas or North Carolina.
So I wish Egbunu nothing but the best, of course, but now the future gets very murky for this team. It’s up to Hayes to take as much from what I’m sure will be a crash course in “starting at center in big time college basketball” as he can the next few weeks, and become a dependable inside threat as the Gators embark on an SEC Championship quest this month, and then the even bigger quest next month.
All I know is that every championship team overcomes some kind of adversity at some point in their journey. Hopefully, that’s all this turns out to be.