John Egbunu, the 6’11” center from Florida, has not had an easy journey to where he is today.
Before arriving in Uniondale to play for the the Long Island Nets, Egbunu played three college seasons, including one at South Florida, before sitting out a season then transferring the Florida for his sophomore and junior years.
Midway through his junior year at Florida, Egbunu suffered a devastating ACL tear in his left knee, which derailed his collegiate career. The native of Nigeria missed the remainder of his junior year and the injury lingered into his senior season. His left knee began to swell months into his recovery leading to Egbunu getting second and third opinions on follow-up procedures.
Dr. James Andrews suggested a bone marrow aspiration in hopes the Florida big man could return in three-to-four weeks.
“They take out some bone marrow in your back and inject it into your knee,” Egbunu said. “It’s kind of like a procedure that usually helps what I’m dealing with.”
Unfortunately, the procedure did not help Egbunu, leading to Andrews recommending the big man sits out the remainder of his senior season. Instead of looking into a sixth year of eligibility, Egbunu decided to go pro.
He finished his collegiate career playing in a total of 90 games, starting in 80, posting averages of 9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 24.3 minutes per game.
“It was great,” Egbunu said of his college experience. “The University of Florida is a great university. I had a great time there. I had really good coaches that were like parents to me so they helped me out on and off the court. Obviously, I give them a lot of credit for the man I am today and for my game to a certain extent.”
The Nigerian native was picked up by the Brooklyn Nets in September but was waived in October. The Nets retained his rights following the move, sending the native of Nigeria to Uniondale to play for Long Island.
After starting the season as a starter, Egbunu has come off the bench, mostly due to the stretch 5 roles former Nets two-way Henry Ellenson and current starter Jonathan Kasibabu brought to the team. Egbunu, on the other hand, is a traditional center who plays under the rim on offense and provides rim protection on D.
Despite not being able to serve as a stretch 5, Egbunu brings value to the reigning G League Eastern Conference champions. He is a rim protector, hard screener, and a dominant finisher around the basket. To the Nigerian native, Egbunu prides himself being a versatile center on both ends.
“A little bit of everything,” Egbunu said. “Rim protection, setting good screens, finishing around the basket when you get the ball so a little bit of everything.”
His head coach, Shaun Fein, thinks highly of his big man. He believes Egbunu’s biggest area of impact is his rim protection and gives the team some good baskets.
“He is a big guy that protects the rim,” Fein said. “Super athletic, can finish around the paint, and at the rim. I liked what I saw tonight but just the consistency of his effort is what we have been talking about the whole year. He has really good spirits but when he gets tired, he tends to be not so energetic and not talkative but he did a great job protecting the rim and give us good baskets.”
This season, Egbunu has filled the shoes of former Nets two-way Alan Williams nicely. The 25-year-old has played in 21 games, starting five. He’s averaging 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 20.1 minutes per game. He missed a couple of games due to a sprained ankle and has been in a walking boot.
Like most players in the G League, they are there to learn and develop their game. Egbunu wants to continue to move his game forward and defines his first year in Uniondale as a learning experience.
“Its going good,” Egbunu said. “It’s been a learning experience definitely. Being my first year in the G League, it’s been a learning experience for me. For my own self personally, I want to continue to see growth in myself. It has definitely been a learning experience.”
Egbunu believes he has the potential to make it into the NBA. He has the physical size, athleticism and strength. To Egbunu, he has one main goal in mind.
“The goal is always to be in the NBA,” Egbunu said. “In order for me to get there, personally, I need to take everything one day at a time. I can not look too far into the future. I got to stay in the moment. That is what I try to do everyday so.”