Senior 6-foot-10 center Justin McBride will not be lacing it up for the black and gold in the 2016-17 basketball season.
McBride’s decision, which was confirmed last Tuesday during a stop on the Charge On Tour, sent shock waves through the UCF community. Fans supported him on and off the court, and many questioned why someone so beloved as a Knight would leave so abruptly.
When head coach Johnny Dawkins was hired in March, he alluded to a fast-paced playing style and accountability on and off the court as a part of the new culture he wants to implement.
McBride denounced the general idea that Dawkins’ up-and-down, fast-paced play was the reasoning behind him transferring.
“Actually found out last Monday,” McBride said. “It didn’t have anything to do with the play style. [Dawkins] was willing to make necessary adjustments for me to be able to succeed.”
Coming out of Bradford High School averaging 20.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game, McBride’s post presence made him a prominent force in a half-court system. The idea that the senior big man wasn’t a good mix with the playing style of a new coach seemed plausible. However, McBride chalked up his decision to a man-to-man agreement.
“Me and coach Dawkins sat down [and] made an agreement,” McBride said. “I had to hold up my end of the bargain, [and] he held up his end of the bargain. If I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain, certain things would happen, and I wasn’t able to do it.”
The conversations between McBride and Dawkins were held in confidence by McBride, but he felt that this was an agreement between men, and he felt that he had to honor the deal rather than look for a way out.
“I feel like I let everyone down,” McBride said. “That’s what happened, it was nothing more [and] nothing less. I don’t want it to seem like it was Dawkins trying to kick me off the team because he was trying to do this or trying to do that.”
Although McBride feels he’s let down his team, redshirt junior A.J. Davis expressed what outstanding character McBride exhibited during his tenure as a Knight. Davis supports his decision regardless of the circumstances.
“I wanted to let him know that I cared and that we were still going to be brothers and we were going to be cool no matter what,” Davis said. “Justin is one of the purest hearts I know, one of the greatest dudes I know, a man of God [and] a great person overall.
“I hate to see it. I wish he would of asked for one more chance or did whatever he had to do to stay. That’s just part of Justin.”
Davis was one of the first teammates to actually reach out to McBride following the news of his transfer, and said there are a lot of things he will miss from the big man.
“For me, personally, I’m going to miss his composure,” Davis said. “I think that he really started to understand me personally, and he did a great job of helping me stay composed and just keeping my head. There were a lot of times where I just wanted to lose it and let my mind slip during the game. He was always one of the first people to come to me and get my head together.”
Davis added that McBride’s skill set on the low block made him nearly automatic when he caught the ball in the low post.
Reluctantly transferring, McBride believes that his experiences at UCF will be beneficial to him when he starts the next chapter of his career.
“Life is a funny thing, but it’s 90 percent what you make [of] experiences and 10 percent what they really are,” McBride said. “I don’t quit, bro. I don’t quit … it’s not in my genetic makeup. I love UCF, I love the people [and] everything. It just didn’t work out that way. Life has a quick learning curve. It’s like words: You can say them, but you can’t take them back.”
McBride still hasn’t decided where he plans to be playing next season, but he’s working out and staying in shape so that he’ll be prepared for next season. He’s collected some interest from schools and is in the process of creating a top five list of schools to choose from for his senior year.
Christopher Davis is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @ChristopherDTV or email him at ChristopherD@CentralFloridaFuture.com.