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John Egbunu granted his release from USF's basketball team

TAMPA — USF 6-foot-10 center John Egbunu, who set a school freshman rebounding record and made the American Athletic Conference's All-Rookie team, has been granted his release.

The cornerstone of a nationally-lauded 2013 signing class, Egbunu becomes the fifth scholarship player to exit since coach Stan Heath's dismissal in mid March. Walk-on Shemiye McLendon, who averaged nearly 20 minutes last season, isn't expected back either.

The school also announced Tuesday the exit of rising junior guard Javontae Hawkins, whose departure was reported by the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday.

"We appreciate their contributions to our program and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors," USF executive associate athletic director Barry Clements said in a three-paragraph news release.

Egbunu and Hawkins join forward Zach LeDay, guard Musa Abdul-Aleem and point guard Josh Heath as the Bulls' departures. Counting incoming freshman shooting guards Troy Holston and Dinero Mercurius, USF has eight players on scholarship for the 2014-15 season.

That includes rising senior point guard Anthony Collins, who is set to graduate in May and could be eligible at another school immediately if he transferred. Last week, new Bulls coach Orlando Antigua lauded Collins' efforts in offseason workouts with the new staff.

Egbunu, ranked by ESPN as the nation's No. 7 center coming out of Fort Walton Beach High, started 31 of 32 games. He averaged 7.4 points, ranked ninth in the conference with 1.9 blocks per game and set a team freshman record with 198 rebounds.

He and 6-8 classmate Chris Perry, also a member of the AAC All-Rookie team, were projected to blossom into one of the most dominant frontcourts in Bulls lore. As it stands, Perry and 7-3 redshirt junior Jordan Omogbehin are USF's only frontcourt players with college experience.

A stipulation of Egbunu's release prohibits him from signing with another AAC program, USF basketball spokesman Steven Schoon said. Barring receipt of an NCAA waiver, he'd have to sit out a year if he opted to transfer to another Division I school.

Based on his physical upside (40-inch vertical leap), a year of training for the '15 NBA draft is conceivable. If he opts for more school, a possible destination is Virginia Tech, where former Bulls assistant Steve Roccaforte — who recruited Egbunu — has landed.

KENTUCKY: Forward Julius Randle is leaving after one season for the NBA draft, where he is expected to be among the top five selections. The 6-foot-9 Randle averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds and was voted to the Associated Press' All-American third team.

TENNESSEE: Donnie Tyndall was introduced Tuesday as the new men's basketball coach, agreeing to a six-year contract worth $1.6 million per year to replace Cuonzo Martin, who went 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee before California hired him on April 15. The 43-year-old Tyndall went 56-17 with a pair of NIT appearances in two seasons at Southern Mississippi.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

John Egbunu granted his release from USF's basketball team 04/22/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 8:19pm]
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