Gators sophomore Omar Payne enters transfer portal

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer

Florida sophomore Omar Payne has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, he announced on social media Tuesday. 

The 6-foot-10 forward out of Kissimmee showed promise as a freshman and was expected to compete for UF’s starting center spot this season, but junior Colin Castleton ultimately won that role upon arriving in Gainesville.

As one of UF’s first bigs off the bench, Payne averaged 3.8 points in 24 games, but was noticeably benched in the Gators’ overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament due to internal punishment handed down for Payne’s second-half ejection in the SEC Tournament for elbowing Tennessee forward John Fulkerson.

More:Florida's Tre Mann declares for NBA draft

Dunk-a-thon:Keyontae Johnson salutes Anthony Duruji for play against Oral Roberts in NCAA Tournament

Also leaving:Florida guard Ques Glover puts name in transfer portal

Another likely transfer:Florida's Noah Locke enters name in transfer portal

Payne returned for Florida’s second-round loss to Oral Roberts and went 2-of-4 from the field in 11 minutes, and he was expected to return to the program following exit interviews with Florida’s coaching staff. 

Tennessee's John Fulkerson is attended to after being fouled by Florida's Omar Payne in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Friday, March 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Payne was ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Instead, he becomes the fourth Gator to enter the transfer portal, joining Ques Glover, Noah Locke and Osayi Osifo, and the sixth player to leave the program since the season concluded.

Considering he’s currently projected as a mid-to-first round draft pick in the NBA draft in July, sophomore point guard Tre Mann isn’t expected to return to Florida, while Castleton entered his name in the NBA draft but didn’t hire an agent, giving him a path back to UF if he so chooses.

In the meantime — until additions replace the attrition – the Gators have just seven scholarship players on the roster, a number that includes junior forward Keyontae Johnson, whose status remains uncertain. Florida freshman signee Kowacie Reeves, a 6-foot-6 guard ranked the No. 25 overall prospect in the 2021 class, will also arrive in summer, but the Gators clearly have other moves to make in the interim.

Guards Scottie Lewis and Niels Lane along with forward Samson Ruzhentsev are still weighing their options, according to the team's official website.

Castleton, guard Tyree Appleby, forward Anthony Duruji and center Jason Jitoboh, meanwhile, told coach Mike White during end-of-season exit interviews last week that they intend to return.