UCF men’s basketball loses second 2023 high school signee

·2 min read

UCF men’s basketball lost a second member of its 2023 high school signing class on Friday.

Petras Padegimas, a 6-foot-8 forward from Lithuania who played high school basketball at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, has backed off of his pledge to the Knights, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported.

Padegimas signed his national letter of intent with UCF and in November. It’s unclear what led to his decision to no longer join the Knights for their inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference.

Padegimas joins Joey Hart, a 6-foot-4 guard from Linston, Ind., who is looking elsewhere for college.

Hart, who asked for release from his national letter of intent May 11, was granted that request five days later, according to WTHI-TV sports director Rick Semmler.

In a tweet thanking coach Johnny Dawkins for recruiting him, Hart cited “changed circumstances” as the reason he asked for a release from UCF.

The departures of Hart and Padegimas leave Brewster Academy’s Comeh Emuobor as the lone signee remaining in UCF’s recruiting class.

Despite the losses, Dawkins has continued to rebuild his roster through the transfer portal.

UCF has landed commitments from four transfers: guards Jaylin Sellers (Ball State), Shemarri Allen (UMKC) and Jaykwon Walton (Wichita State) and forward Omar Payne (Jacksonville).

The Knights have officially announced the additions of Walton, Payne and Allen online.

Still, the losses of Hart and Padegimas hurt the program as both were considered key additions.

Dawkins previously said Hart, who ranks as the nation’s No. 30 shooting guard, according to 247Sports, would “fit right in with our team.”

“Joey is a terrific all-around player and an excellent shooter,” Dawkins said in a press release when Hart signed with UCF.

In a February interview, Dawkins described Padegimas, who has spent time with the Lithuanian National Team, as a versatile player.

“He brings that physicality,” he said. “He’s explosive and athletic around the rim. He’s a capable shooter on the perimeter. He plays extremely hard and he’s a gym rat.”

ESPN said Padegimas “should draw strong interest across the high-major spectrum” with his recruitment is open again.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.