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Florida forward Omar Payne transferring to Illinois

The once-highly touted big man is heading to Champaign.

NCAA Basketball: Stetson at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Underwood has some roles on his team to fill, and it looks like he secured one of them Saturday morning.

Florida sophomore Omar Payne announced his intent to transfer to Illinois on Twitter, saying he’s “excited for my next step.”

Payne was a consensus top-50 recruit out of high school back in 2019 and part of a very good Florida recruiting class. This is what Alligator Army said about Payne when he announce he was transferring last week.

And while his athleticism, length, and instincts as a shot-blocker stood out early in his Florida career, his offensive game’s limitations were clear early and often — even on his rare explosive nights, as in a 19-point performance on nine-for-nine shooting against Auburn in January 2020, Payne did nearly all of his damage within feet of the basket.

That made him a highly efficient offensive player — Payne made an astonishing 75 percent of his shots as a sophomore — but one who did not earn a volume of touches or shots. That gaudy shooting percentage came on 52 shots, just more than two per game; Payne never took more than six shots in a game as a sophomore.

And his promise as a defender largely fizzled, as well. Payne was pipped as Florida’s premier shot-blocker by Michigan transfer Colin Castleton, and his struggles as an individual defender — which played a large role in Florida’s Senior Day collapse against Kentucky last spring — did not abate in a sophomore season in which he actually fouled more often than as a freshman. Payne picked up three or more fouls 11 times in Florida’s first 15 games in 2020-21, then saw his minutes somewhat reduced over the Gators’ final nine games.

Obviously, Adam Miller announced he will be entering the transfer portal on Thursday, and we expect Ayo and Kofi to still test the NBA Draft waters, with at least Ayo staying in there. And with Giorgi the only experienced big man, Payne is a big get. Let’s see what Antigua can do now.