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Florida Gators 2021-22 Center Outlook

Analyzing the state of the Florida center position heading into the Gators 2021-2022 basketball season.

Following the 2020-21 college basketball season, the Florida Gators saw a mass exodus of contributors leave considerable holes across the lineup.

The Gators had to endure the departures of Tre Mann, the team's leading scoring and offensive focal point, and Scottie Lewis to the NBA. Meanwhile, Noah Locke, Ques Glover, Omar Payne and Osayi Osifo found new homes via the transfer portal. In addition, Samson Ruzhentsev signed to play professionally with the KK Mega Basket in the Adriatic Basketball League in Serbia.

Florida's roster reached a point of complete depletion. Over half of last year's roster was gone just 10 days following the Gators' second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Adding players to fill the glaring voids in the roster, UF would go guard-heavy and reeled in two transfers at forward. However, the lone spot that remained untouched was the center position, but for a good reason.

Returning two players who can be key contributors in the Gators lineup in the 2021-22 season, the five is the final spot in AllGators' positional outlook series.

Contributors:

Colin Castleton

The leader of the pack. 

Following his junior campaign with the Gators, the former Michigan Wolverine entered his name into NBA Draft consideration to gauge the interest from organizations for his talents at the next level.

Returning to Florida a few months later, Colin Castleton is a significant piece in the head coach Mike White's gameplan this season. Simultaneously, Castleton is getting one last chance to prove his worth for NBA squads.

Averaging 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 2020, Castleton was a major focal point in the Gators gameplan on both ends of the court. 

He operated as the starting center 21 of his 24 games played and showcased a physical presence on the interior offensively, displaying a breadth of well-versed moves in the post. Defensively, he got progressively better as a shot-blocker and proved he can be a forceful rim protector at the collegiate level.

Known for his intensity and ability to finish through contact at the basket, Castleton is a talented and animated figure at the five spot for the Gators. 

Standing at 6-foot-11, Castleton's has a near-ideal physical makeup, equipped with desirable long arms and broad shoulders. If he can take a step forward from a consistency standpoint on both ends of the floor, his draft stock will rise drastically.

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Jason Jitoboh

After returning for his third season with the Gators, Jason Jitoboh is slated to see an increase playing time in 2021-22.

With the departure of Omar Payne to Illinois this offseason, the Gators are looking to replace just over three rebounds and one block per game off the bench.

It's officially Jitoboh's time to shine.

Jitoboh has shown promise as an authoritative figure in the paint at 6-foot-11, 305 pounds in his 33 collegiate games over two seasons. He served as a reserve rim protector defensively and savvy weapon in the post offensively. 

Scoring 1.5 points and grabbing 1.1 rebounds per contest, Jitoboh began to find his footing in the Gators frontcourt last season, becoming a consistent piece of the center rotation.

He was given adequate experience in the final 11 games last season for White to utilize him copiously in relief of Castleton in the coming year. 

While his minutes won't result in a flashy impact, his efficiency down low has the potential to aid the Gators to victories – especially against the teams that operate in big lineups like Kentucky did a season ago.

Final Thoughts

The Gators center room is the thinnest group on the team. Nonetheless, it also consists of the team's best player. 

In 2021-22, the offense will run through Castleton.

Operating a pick-and-roll offensive, the big man's physicality, intensity, and experience in the paint will provide Florida with a primary scoring option. 

As a group expected to be stingy defensively, the center position – and coaching – will decide how good the Gators can be from Nov. 9 through March Madness.

Stay tuned to AllGators for continuous coverage of Florida Gators football, basketball and recruiting. Follow along on social media at @SI_AllGators on Twitter and Florida Gators on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.