Florida’s Egbunu may need second knee procedure

Florida still holding out hope senior center could return this season

Florida center John Egbunu has fun during media day at UF's practice facility last October. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

It’s been close to one year since Florida senior center John Egbunu went down with a season-ending torn ACL injury on Feb. 14, 2017 at Auburn.

There was hope that the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Egbunu would be back on the court by now, helping shore up UF’s deficiencies in rebounding, post defense and inside scoring. Due to recent setbacks during the rehabilitation process, however, Egbunu has yet to be cleared for contact practices, let alone games. Egbunu did not travel to UF’s game at South Carolina because of concerns over knee swelling while flying and hasn’t worked out before a game since Jan. 27 against Baylor.

Florida men’s basketball trainer Dave Werner still holds out hope that Egbunu could still return before the end of the season, but admits he could need a second procedure on the surgically repaired knee either before or at the end of the season.

“We started throwing him into non-contact practices in January hoping to do that for two weeks, and then go into contact practices to where he could play the first week in February,” Werner said. “But we were never able to get to the contact part of it because the more we did non-contact stuff, his knees would swell. And with the swelling, people start getting some pain, so we weren’t able to progress him to that next step.”

The root of Egbunu’s swelling stems from patellofemoral syndrome issues.

“You have some cartilage under the kneecap, so it glides and it has got some spots under there, some problems underneath there, when he tore his ACL, that they tried to clean up but in the rehab process it started to get irritated,” Werner said. “And that’s why his knee swelled up.”

At this point, Egbunu hasn’t decided yet whether to undergo the second surgical procedure or continue to try to rehab before the end of the season.

“He’s done everything, no question about it,” Werner said. “He never missed a rehabilitation appointment. He was never late. He did everything we asked. He was with our physical therapist, Lisa Tillman, at UF Health for six months, worked his tail off. The fact that John is not back has nothing to do with John not giving a good effort.”

Egbunu’s surgery was performed in early March by Florida team orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Farmer. In addition to repairing the torn ACL, Egbunu had some issues in the medial meniscus of his same knee that needed to be fixed.

For the first four months, Werner said the goal was to strengthen the surgically repaired knee and restore range of motion. Egbunu began jogging on an anti-gravity treadmill at 60 percent body weight over the summer and began straight line running on the court in September.

Werner said there were some minor setbacks when Egbunu tried to go through cutting drills later in the fall.

“He did experience some swelling in his knee so we would have to back off for a couple of days, rest,” Werner said.

Eventually, though, Egbunu was able to progress to individual workouts, then non-contact practices, before his latest setback.

Werner had been UF’s basketball trainer since 2004 and has overseen a number of successful ACL rehabs, including former forward DeVon Walker, who sat out UF’s 2014-15 season before returning in 2015-16. But Werner said rehabs can be trickier with bigger forwards and centers.

“DeVon was 6-foot-6, 190 pounds and there’s a big difference between that and John, who is a 6-11, 270-pound guy, the stress that you put on it,” Werner said.

Another factor in play is Egbunu’s professional basketball aspirations, either in the NBA or overseas. Last season, Egbunu put his name in the NBA draft, but opted to return as a fifth-year senior and start graduate school at UF.

“It’s his future,” Werner said. “But he may decide if he’s in a position where he knows his knee can no longer be damaged and can progress in his rehab, he can try to come back and help us.”

Up next

Who: Georgia (13-11, 4-8) vs. Florida (17-8, 8-4)

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: O’Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. Nothing to gain, everything to lose by trying a late season come back, this Gator team isn’t winning any championships this year, shut him down, correct the knee issue and prepare for a professional career, too easy a decision.

    • Totally Disagree! This team has the most potential of any team in ten years.

      I am not buying this , he did everything he could.

      I think he made decision to go pro before the season started.

      That is a real shame because this team could win NC with him.

      Just a fan that is looking at what could have been.

      • Egbunu will not be playing for UF again.

        He will do what is best for him.
        He TX from Sou Fla for better opportunity at UF.
        He has knee injury and playing (re injury) could prejudice his NBA aspirations.

        If you were his dad, you would say forget UF.

        As UF fan that sucks!!!

        real simple!

  2. Really ignorant comment about the surgeon – I’m sure UF Health always let’s the beginners practice on their star athlete’s knees!

    Only good comment is that everybody DOES react differently to surgery. I’m sure that James Andrews has also got to be the only surgeon alive that can fix an athlete’s knee!

    Agreed with shutting him down and letting him heal and get an additional procedure if needed (note that it did not say that they were redoing the first procedure). He won’t be back as a Gator, but we should support him fully on his career path.

    – signed a surgeon

  3. There are plenty of great surgeons out there and ACL tears are not so obscure that only a handful know how to do them. Dr. Andrews doesn’t even do surgery any more. Nonetheless, the important thing is for John to heal well. I hope he can get the second surgery and heal up. He should be granted another year of eligibility . I think his best choice is to come back here. He has to prove his knee is good before a team spends money on him, I think. In the meantime, I am very proud of this team for what they have had to go through without big John and the other centers. Actually, remarkable what they have accomplished with just one guy to play the position and Mr. Hayes has been a man all season.

  4. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Gators a 4-seed in his updated bracket (today). Jerry Palm (CBS) has them a 9-seed in his most recent bracket (yesterday). With that kind of disparity, it’s safe to say we can call Palm a d**k!

  5. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Florida a 4-seed in his most recent (today) bracket. Jerry Palm (CBS) has them a 9-seed as of yesterday evening. That simply tells me that Elmer Fudd’s bracket would be much more accurate than Palm’s!

  6. Wow, Kennedy out at Ole Miss at the end of the season. Is it possible, even remotely possible, that Mississippi can assume ownership of that humongous White albatross (and financial burden) that UF has wrapped around its head and shoulders?! Can Michelle turn down his alma mater? This is like a godsend thrown in the lap of Florida’s Athletic Dept. I’m dizzy right now thinking about a real coach coming to Gainesville next season.