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Gators add transfer Zyon Pullin to fill UF’s need at point guard

Florida coach Todd Golden has found his point guard, luring UC Riverside’s Zyon Pullin to join one of the nation’s top transfer classes.

Pullin chose the Gators over LSU, a source told the Sentinel to confirm a report by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello. The decision to finish his career cross country fills a void amid a talented collection of transfers headed to Gainesville after UF’s season ended with a lopsided 67-49 loss to UCF during the opening round of the NIT.

Even before Pullin’s move, Golden gushed about the Gators’ newcomers.

“Really pleased with the guys we were able to bring in,” he said during the SEC spring meetings in Destin. “To a man, they will all really help us this year. All super impactful players.”

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Pullin will be a graduate transfer after he earned first-team All-Big West in 2022-23, averaging 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 48.6% from the floor, including 39.4% from 3-point range. His skills as a scoring point guard will be critical for the Gators following a 16-17 season, UF’s first losing record since 2014-15.

In April, Golden beat out new St. Johns’ Rick Pitino for combo-guard Walter Clayton Jr., who played for Pitino at Iona. A native of Lake Wales, Clayton has the versatility to play the point but might be better suited off the ball.

“I’m not sure he’s a true point,” Golden said. “But he can definitely play the position and is able. Great assist rate, really good decision-maker, and he’s comfortable playing out of the pick-and-roll, which is really important for the way we like to play.

“So I’d feel comfortable with him running the point for us.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Clayton was one of the most coveted transfers available. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season as a sophomore while shooting 43.1% from 3-point range and a nation-leading 95.3% from the free-throw line.

Clayton and Pullin will join three promising front-court additions — Micah Handlogten, a 7-foot-1 shot-blocker, a sophomore from Marshall; 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward EJ Jarvis, a graduate transfer from Yale; and 6-foot-10, 235-pound Tyrese Samuel, a graduate transfer from Seton Hall.

The 2023 Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year, Handlogten averaged 7.6 points and 9.8 rebounds while blocking 75 shots.

“Was one of the best young players in the portal,” Golden said. “He just finishes everything around the rim. Incredible block rate and grabs every rebound. It’ll take him a little bit to adjust to the quickness and physicality of the league, but it’s going to be, not easy, but a really quick transition for him.”

Jarvis averaged 11.4 points while shooting 55% to go with 5.5 rebounds as a senior. He also blocked 64 shots in 62 games at Yale.

“He’s experienced. He’s strong, really good athlete,” Golden said. “You can see his high-achieving nature by being an Ivy League student and graduating in four years. He’s skilled, he can shoot it.

“He can play the 4 and the 5 for us and a guy that we’ll lean on this year.”

Samuel accounted for 11 points a game on 55% shooting along with an average of 5.9 rebounds.

“Obviously a producer,” Golden said.

The Gators transfers will join a core of players led by sophomore shooting guard Riley Kugel and junior wing Will Richard.

Kugel emerged as a future star for the Gators during the final month of the season. The 6-foot-5, 207-pound wing averaged 18.3 points during the final eight games after star big man Colin Castleton broke his hand on Feb. 15 against Ole Miss.

Golden said the former Dr. Phillips star attacked the offseason.

“He could have gone in the portal. He could have tested NBA,” Golden said. “There were a lot of different variables involved. He jumped back in and said, ‘Hey, I want to make this place great. I want to continue to build here in this program.

“I anticipate he’s going to have a really, really good year.”

Edgar Thompson can be reached at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @osgators.