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Former KU forward Zuby Ejiofor picks transfer spot ... with another Hall of Fame coach

Former Kansas forward Zuby Ejiofor, who entered the NCAA men’s basketball transfer portal on May 5, has chosen St. John’s as his transfer destination, Ejiofor’s mentor, Andy Philachack, confirmed to The Star on Monday afternoon.

Ejiofor, according to his mentor, heard from over 30 schools. Villanova, Providence, San Diego State, Texas, Texas A&M and TCU were on his original list of transfer possibilities, Philachack told The Star in recent days.

“We came to St. John’s and we got a chance to meet (first-year St. John’s coach) Rick Pitino and the coaching staff, and we fell in love with them,” Ejiofor told The New York Post.

“Everything just felt right. … The whole coaching staff saw potential in me. I liked everything I heard, and I thought St. John’s would be a perfect fit having the opportunity to play on a big stage. On Sunday night me and my family had a talk. We just felt coach Pitino can get me to that next level,” Ejiofor added.

Ejiofor, a 6-9, 240-pound sophomore-to-be forward, averaged 5.1 minutes a game in 25 games his freshman year at KU. He scored 31 points, grabbed 43 rebounds and blocked 15 shots as a Jayhawk.

Ejiofor — he did not start playing basketball until eighth grade — averaged 21.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocked shots and 1.9 steals per game for Garland (Texas) High in 2021-22. He averaged 21.0 points and 13.0 rebounds for Garland as a junior in 2020-21. He arrived at KU ranked No. 44 in the class of 2022 by Rivals.com.

St. John’s will be led by Hall of Fame coach Pitino in 2023-24. Pitino takes over the program from Mike Anderson, whose squad went 18-15 a year ago.

According to New York Post writer Zach Braziller, “recent addition Cruz Davis, who played for Pitino at Iona University and is a friend of Ejiofor’s, reached out to him about considering the Big East school.”

“It was a big factor, in terms of St. John’s being one of the schools I visited,” Ejiofor said of Pitino. “I’ve seen the amount of high-level guys he’s trained over the years, the guys he’s taken to the pros.

“One of the things I like about him is he’s stayed in contact with a lot of them, not only on the court but off the court as well. I know he’s one of the greatest coaches out there. I wanted to have the opportunity to be coached by him and see how good I can possibly be,” Ejiofor added to the Post.

St. John’s has added eight players from the portal (10 newcomers total) for the upcoming season. According to the Post, “Ejiofor will battle Iona transfer Quinn Slazinski as the starting power forward, though St. John’s could also opt to go small with wings RJ Luis and Glenn Taylor Jr. starting at the three and four.”

“While Ejiofor’s freshman numbers weren’t eye-popping, he is a player with significant potential,” wrote Eric Bossi of 247Sports.com. “He doesn’t mind playing with physicality and provides immediate depth and size to a St. John’s frontcourt that has been rebuilt around returning stud Joel Soriana who averaged over 15 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game during the 2022-23 season.”

Ejiofor decided to transfer after KU landed 7-footer Hunter Dickinson in the portal. Philachack said “yes sir, 100%” when asked if former Michigan standout Dickinson’s arrival led to the decision to leave KU.

“That is 32 minutes gone already,” Philachack told The Star. “It’ll be eight minutes between Zuby and Ernest (Udeh who has since decided to leave). We did some math. We decided this was the best move for our son. Coach (Bill Self) backed us up.”

Continued Philachack: “We love coach Self. We wish we could stay. It’s just not going to work out for us. I can’t have my son sitting another year, his freshman (and) sophomore year.”

KU still has three scholarships to award in recruiting after losing eight players to the transfer portal and gaining three from the same portal.

Of the eight lost, six have already picked new schools. The six are: Ejiofor (St. John’s), Bobby Pettiford (East Carolina), Cam Martin (Boise State), Zach Clemence (Santa Barbara), Joseph Yesufu (Washington State) and MJ Rice (North Carolina State). Kyle Cuffe Jr. and Ernest Udeh have not announced a destination yet.

KU has added three players from the portal thus far. They are: Dickinson (Michigan), Nick Timberlake (Towson) and Arterio Morris (Texas).