UK's EJ Floreal Leaves Basketball To Focus on Track & Field
LEXINGTON, Ky. – EJ Floréal (pictured) announced Tuesday, August 9 his intent to compete for the Kentucky track and field program, which is coached by his father Edrick Sr.
Floréal played on the Kentucky men’s basketball team the past three years. An elite athlete with a decorated prep career on the track, Floréal will have two years of eligibility remaining in track and field. He will no longer play on the Kentucky basketball team. “First of all I just want to thank Coach Calipari, my coaches and my teammates for the opportunity I’ve had the last three years,” EJ Floréal said. “One of my goals was to play alongside the best players in the country and to grow and develop, and I think I’ve done that. “Sometimes other opportunities come along. I want to use my athleticism to truly excel, and after seeing what my dad has done with his track and field athletes, I felt like this was my best chance to be the best version of myself. I want to make something clear: This was completely my decision and my decision alone. “I know this transition won’t be easy, but I was bred for this. As much as I love basketball, track is in my blood. I’m excited for the next step.”
In Floréal’s senior season of high school track and field -- his only season competing in Kentucky as he previously lived in Palo Alto, California -- he finished fourth in the 100 meters and third in the 200m at the State Championships. He won the Lexington City and Region Championships in the 100m and 200m in 2013. As a high-school junior, Floréal placed fourth in the 100m and third in the 200m at the 2012 California Championships. “I’m looking forward to having EJ on the team and watching him reach his potential,” Coach Floréal said. “I’m thankful to Coach Calipari for giving him an opportunity to play basketball at UK.”
Floréal’s basketball career at Kentucky will come to an end after three NCAA Tournament appearances, trips to the 2014 and 2015 Final Fours, and Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships in 2015 and 2016. He was a two-time SEC Honor Roll member. He played 29 games in three seasons, and tallied three points, two steals, a block and eight rebounds at UK. “I’m really happy for EJ and this opportunity to run for his father, who is one of the best in the world at what he does,” UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said. “EJ has elite athleticism and I’m happy for him that he’ll truly get a chance to shine. I want to thank him for his hard work and dedication to our basketball program. He was a great teammate, he improved immensely over the last three years and he was a big part of our success.”
While Coach Floréal has been head coach at UK, Wildcat athletes have won five individual NCAA Championships, earned 81 All-America honors, 27 Individual SEC Championships, had four Academic All-Americans and 46 all-academic selections. Additionally, Floréal's Wildcats have broken the school record for NCAA Championships finish four times. As a personal coach, he has mentored and trained 11 athletes at the Olympic Games (Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Leah Nugent, Rondel Sorrillo, Grace Upshaw, Jackie Edwards, Amaechi Morton, Arantxa King, Toby Stevenson [2004 silver medal] , Erica McLain, Ian Thompson) including three (Camacho-Quinn, Nugent and Sorrillo) at the 2016 Rio Games.
Notably he coached Kendra Harrison to breaking the 28-year-old world record in the 100-meter hurdles (12.20) at the 2016 London Anniversary Games. Harrison is the fastest combination hurdler in history with PRs of 12.20 in the 100m hurdles and 54.09 in the 400m hurdles.
EJ Floréal’s parents were both decorated athletes in their time as elite competitors. Floréal Sr. graduated from Arkansas in 1990. He captured five NCAA triple jump titles and four NCAA team championships. He also competed for Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympic Games. He was the 1990 Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist in the triple jump.
EJ Floréal’s mother is LaVonna Martin-Floréal, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She won three individual NCAA Championships, and eight SEC Championships as a Tennessee hurdler and sprinter. Photo by Jamie H. Vaught