North Texas brought in a talented transfer a few years ago in forward George Odufuwa, who helped lead the Mean Green to the NCAA tournament.
UNT head coach Tony Benford couldn’t help but think about Odufuwa on Tuesday, when he added Cincinnati transfer Kelvin Gaines to the Mean Green’s roster.
Benford recruited Odufuwa while he was at Arizona State and can see similar abilities in Gaines, a 6-foot-10 center who spent the first three years of his career under coach Mick Cronin at Cincinnati.
Odufuwa transferred to UNT from ASU and helped lead the Mean Green to the 2010 NCAA tournament.
“[Gaines is] mature, has been in a winning program, has a lot of character, athleticism and toughness,” Benford said. “Coach Cronin is a great coach, so he has been through Big East-level practices and knows how to work. With the guys that we lost, he will be able to step in and protect the rim.”
Gaines blocked 39 shots in two seasons at Cincinnati, despite playing just 276 minutes during an injury-plagued stay at the school. The former Bearcat played a limited role offensively and averaged 0.5 points and 1.4 rebounds while playing 6.0 minutes per game in 22 appearances last season.
Gaines redshirted his first season at Cincinnati due to shoulder injuries and had surgery on a torn labrum this spring.
Gaines will graduate from Cincinnati in just three years and will be immediately eligible at UNT this fall. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Gaines confirmed when reached Tuesday night that he has signed with UNT but said that he wanted to talk with Cronin before speaking publicity about his decision to transfer.
UNT returns its top scorer in Jordan Williams, who averaged 14.2 points per game, but lost two of its top post players in Tony Mitchell and Roger Franklin.
Mitchell declared for the NBA draft, while Franklin was a senior.
Mitchell averaged 8.5 rebounds per game and blocked a school-record 87 shots, while Franklin averaged 6.3 rebounds to go with 25 blocks.
Gaines could help fill the void left by the loss of Mitchell and Franklin.
“We have good shooters and good balance,” Benford said. “He will really shore up our inside game.”
Gaines played at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., for Rex Morgan, who said UNT’s newest player is remarkably athletic and intelligent.
Gaines is the second graduate transfer whom UNT has added since the end of last season, joining former George Mason guard Vertrail Vaughns.
“We have two guys with their degrees now in Kelvin and Vertrail,” Benford said. “We have added guys who know how to win and have toughness.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.