Final Gator Basketball Players Arrive On Campus

The final two pieces of Florida’s roster are final on campus as incoming freshman Riley Kugel and German product Aleks Szymczyk have arrived on campus.


Kugel, the 48th ranked player in the 2022 class, was thought to have some academic concerns during his senior season of high school but the Gators were undeterred, confident that he would be able to graduate with more than capable grades to get into UF. I’m told that his (more than adequate) grades were inputted weeks ago but Kugel and the Gators were waiting on the NCAA clearing house to give him the green light. They gave the okay, and Kugel arrived in Gainesville on Thursday, August 18.



From nearby Orlando, this wasn’t a huge move for Kugel but one that had to be a bit frustrating given the timing. He missed out on several optional workouts that nearly the whole team attended and that would have been an opportunity for him to gel with teammates and showcase the abilities that had him as a top-50 recruit. This is a deep Florida roster with a lot of proven players and far more wing depth than they have had in recent years so it will be a battle for minutes and Kugel unfortunately will be a bit behind having been unable to be at some recent workouts. 


At 6’5” with some established shot making ability and major athleticism he’ll have his opportunities to fight his way into the rotation and now that he’s on campus and ready to get acclimatized to his new home that battle for a role right away will start to intensify.


Kugel will also get to reconnect with high school teammate Denzel Aberdeen who is also a Gator. One of the best backcourts in the country at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High these two have some built in chemistry and could be dominant next to each other once again in the future in Gainesville.


The other Gator to arrive on campus is Aleks Szymczyk (pronounced SHIM-chick) who was most recently in Germany at the International Basketball Academy of Munich while also getting a taste of professional basketball in the Pro B league.


Szymczyk’s commitment to the Gators came late in the offseason and he had to deal with getting a visa to enter the United States to study, so he also wasn’t able to join the team as early as he, and the team, would have liked.


His listed height and weight varies depending on the source but you’ll usually see something in the range of 6’10”, 235 pounds and watching the available film that looks just about right for the big man who has the frame of a high-major frontcourt player.


Since getting to Florida and landing his initial targets Todd Golden had made it known that he was looking to bolster the front court depth and with the market being an extremely competitive one for players 6’9” and above, he had to get creative with an international player in Szymczyk. Golden had played the international recruiting game in the past while at San Francisco and he knew exactly what to do when scouring the globe for a player that could bring something different to his frontcourt.


Szymczyk is a stretch big man whose best offensive weapon right now is his jump shot. That gives the Gators’ frontcourt a different dimension that they don’t currently have, and while it doesn’t look like Szymczyk will be relied on to contribute from day one if the Gators don’t get the shooting they desire from their frontcourt and Szymczyk proves he can stroke it, there is a chance he gets a look. Also, one of the big reasons that Golden knew he wanted to improve his frontcourt depth is the fact that Colin Castleton, Jason Jitoboh, and CJ Felder all missed significant time to injury last year and he wanted a contingency plan. While all those players should enter the 2022-23 season at full health, given the track record Golden was wise to get another option.


In an ideal situation, Szymczyk will have the opportunity to spend some time developing before needing to play important minutes. According to scouting service Euro Hoops Szymczyk is a projected mid-major player, which isn’t to say that this was a bad get by Golden or that he can’t be a Florida-calibre player, but it probably suggests he wouldn’t be expected to command huge minutes right away. For that reason, finally getting him to campus so he can acclimatize to life in America and basketball in the SEC is a huge step.


Now that the Gators have everyone on campus they can start to come together as a team, with still plenty of time before November comes along. 

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.