Kansas Basketball Receives Commitment from Riley Kugel

Kansas goes to the portal early to get Riley Kugel
Florida Gators guard Riley Kugel (2) runs after a loose ball against the Colorado Buffaloes on
Florida Gators guard Riley Kugel (2) runs after a loose ball against the Colorado Buffaloes on / Joe Timmerman/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks have already been busy in the transfer portal, securing the services of ex-Florida guard Riley Kugel before the official end of the college basketball season.

From afar, this seems like a somewhat out of left field choice for the Jayhawks as Kugel, an Orlando, Florida native, saw his playing time reduced throughout SEC conference play, being relegated as a substitute after starting the season in the starting five for the Gators. 

At the start of the season, he was tapped as an All-SEC selection after being named to the All-Freshman team the season before, and he started off with promise. He scored 23 in the season opener against Loyola-Maryland and scored 25 and grabbed nine rebounds in an impressive showing against Baylor, a game that Florida lost 95-91. He had a nice game against Wake Forest in the late non-conference, scoring 21 against the Demon Deacons but it was shortly after that that Kugel was relegated to bench status in Gainesville. 

From the new year on, Kugel averaged 20 minutes per contest over 18 games but only scored in double figures six times, reaching 20 only twice (21 and 22 in wins against Arkansas and Auburn respectively). Kugel also missed the final two games of the SEC tournament before returning for the Gators’ lone NCAA game, a loss to Colorado where he scored 11 points on 50% shooting. The 2023-24 season can only be seen as a disappointment for Riley Kugel, as many NBA Draft boards had him as a potential first round pick if his season mimicked the end of his freshman campaign. It didn’t and now he has joined Kansas.

So what does he bring to KU? For one, when he is on his game, he can do just about anything offensively. For starters, he can drive with authority or nail threes. Kansas needs both of these skills as they lacked them both this past season. The question is whether Kugel will be mentally checked in or not. Reports from Florida suggested he was having difficulty with his teammates and coaches and was demoted to a bench role for the business end of the season. 

His attitude has done a 180 since committing to Kansas, eager to put his game in Bill Self’s hands and see where the season takes him. That’s good news because if Self can harness his potential and we see the Kugel that ended his freshman campaign on a tear (17 PPG in his team’s final 10 games), Kansas will have scored nicely in the portal. The catch however is that he appears to be a volume shooter.

Although he’s not a direct replacement for Kevin McCullar, there are similarities, most glaringly the need to hoist a lot of shots to get points, Kugel shot 39% from the field last season and only 31% from deep to achieve his 9.2 PPG average.

Maybe a clear head and change of scenery is just what Kugel needs. After all, he did state that Kansas has been his dream school since he was a little boy. Bill Self and every Kansas fan will be hoping that this best case scenario plays out in 2024-25.


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Derek Noll

DEREK NOLL

An avid Jayhawks fan his entire life, Derek graduated from the University of Kansas in 1999 and has been writing about the Jayhawks since 2014, getting his start at Rock Chalk Talk.  He specializes in uniform analysis for basketball and football and offers a humorous take on player performances through Player Ratings posts.