Rice transfer brings all-around game to UF

Egor Koulechov, right, has filed the necessary paperwork to officially join the Florida men's basketball team as a graduate transfer.

[Ben Margot/Associated Press]
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 4:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 4:26 p.m.

Florida's newest addition, Rice graduate transfer swingman Egor Koulechov, won't suit up for a game until November.

Yet anxious Gator fans have already coined a nickname for the incoming fifth-year senior -- Three-Gor.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Koulechov (COO-luh-chov) shot 47.4 from 3-point range for Rice last season, an eye-popping number that would have ranked third nationally among Division I players had he not barely fallen short of the minimum five attempts per game (he was at 4.9 attempts).

Regardless, it adds a significant perimeter threat on the floor for Florida, which announced Koulechov's signing Thursday.

“We're thrilled to have Egor come to Florida and join the Gator family,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Along with his obvious offensive firepower, Egor will also bring a level of toughness and experience to our team.”

But Koulechov wants to let Gator Nation know that he's more than just a shooter. At Rice last season, Koulechov averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds to earn first-team, Conference USA honors. Koulechov, who began playing basketball in Israel when he was 13, said the first aspect he gravitated to in the game was rebounding.

“That kind of stuck to me,” Koulechov said. “Toughness, I just think it's one of the most important parts of the game. I always try to play my hardest, try to outplay the opponent. Shooting is great, it's all hard work at the end of the day. You've just got to work on your craft to get better.”

Koulechov will need to rebound against bigger wings in the SEC than he faced in Conference USA. But he said he's up for the challenge.

“Honestly, I have a good feel for the ball,” Koulechov said. “I trust that. Basketball IQ, I feel is so underrated in today's game. I trust that I'll always find a way.”

Koulechov said his breakout shooting season at Rice was the result of playing for an experienced team that shared the basketball and got him open looks. Koulechov also showed the ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line last season, averaging 81.9 percent on 171 trips.

“I just became, I think, a better player sophomore to junior year and I expanded my game,” Koulechov said. “It wasn't just shooting. I was more of a driver, too, so that opened up a lot of opportunities.”

Born in Volgograd, Russia, Koulechov moved to Israel with his family at a young age. When he was 16, he left Israel to play two seasons at Sagemont Prep School in Fort Lauderdale under coach Adam Ross.

Koulechov's parents still live in Israel and he's been back for some summers to play for Israeli amatuer national teams. The rest of his family lives in Russia.

“I thought it was the best opportunity for me to play college basketball at the highest level and move on to the next level,” Koulechov said of coming to the U.S. “I'm about to get my degree so it worked out pretty well so far. I hope next year it will be even better.”

Koulechov said coming back to school in Florida “felt right” after starting his college career at Arizona State and transferring to Rice. He chose the Gators over Oklahoma after visiting UF's campus last weekend and hosting an in-home visit with White and assistant coach Dusty May on Tuesday.

“I thought I had a good connection with the coaching staff,” Koulechov said. “I liked them a lot. Florida is a great team, it's a great place. Always in the back of mind, I mean, I dreamed of coming back to Florida at some point after high school.”

Koulechov will earn a bachelor's from Rice in sports management this spring and said he may pursue sports management studies at UF as well, but hasn't decided yet. On the court, Koulechov will likely compete with Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson and incoming freshman DeAundrae Ballard for the starting small forward spot that is now open after forward Devin Robinson decided to keep his name in the NBA draft. The Gators are coming off a breakout second season under White, going 27-9 and reaching the Elite Eight for the ninth time in program history.

“I'm super excited coming to a good team, an NCAA Tournament team,” Koulechov said. “Obviously there are a lot of high expectations with this team, and I'm excited to be a part of it. Hopefully I can make a big contribution.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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