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Florida Gators 2021-22 Forward Outlook

Analyzing the state of the Florida Gators forward position coming into the 2021-2022 season.

The forward position can be defined by two words: athletic and blue-collar.

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. As a result, the forward position – despite bringing in two transfers respectively – is thin in comparison.

Question marks remain at the three spot.

Due to the lack of depth at the traditional small forward spot, the Gators will have to get creative with aligning their talent on the court. As basketball evolves, players have started to become more versatile and seemingly positionless.

To ensure that their five best players are on the court simultaneously, Florida is expected to primarily run in small ball. 

As a result, the base lineup will likely consist of three guards, seeing the graduate transfer from Charleston Southern Phlandrous Fleming occupying the three abundantly.

For more on Fleming and the full Florida Gators guard outlook, click here.

To navigate the options at forward before Florida tips off its season against Elon on Nov. 9, AllGators continues our outlook series.

Contributors

Anthony Duruji

Fitting the mold of players that have transferred into the Florida Gators program, Anthony Duruji was thrust into a starting spot during the lineups reconstruction in Keyontae Johnson's absence last season. 

Transferring from Lousiana Tech in 2019, Duruji would take a redshirt season.

However, getting the opportunity to develop in Mike White's scheme mentally in that year off the court, he can now serve as a leader in the locker room alongside point guard Tyree Appleby and center Colin Castleton for the new faces in the system.

Averaging 6.1 points and 4.4. rebounds a year ago, Duruji displayed staggering athleticism and the capability to play above the rim. Punching through multiple highlight-reel slams last season, he can instill energy and excitement into any arena he's playing in.

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Hard to outduel on the boards, Duruji has the ability to do the dirty work for this year's Gators team. His knack for snagging rebounds off the glass on the offensive end – second on the team with 35 last year – can give the plethora of UF scoring options opportunities to get second and third chance points.

Those extended possessions are hard to come by, but they're always a focal point for any great team.

This season, Duruji will reassume his role at power forward in the Gators starting lineup, where he has the tools to make a significant impact on the team's success.

CJ Felder

As one of the splash landings for the Gators via the transfer portal this offseason, CJ Felder provides depth and experience to the forward spot.

Transferring into the Florida program from Boston College, Felder spent two seasons with the Golden Eagles, playing 50 games and starting 35. Throughout his career in Massachusetts, Felder tallied 7.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Standing at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Felder presents Florida with an aggressive two-way player that is more than willing to do the dirty work that his role entails.

Felder brings the Gators a high-level defender with a prowess for shot-blocking, a piece White's squad needed with Scottie Lewis no longer providing elite pressure on the defensive end. Offensively, he will operate on the wing, where he can knock down shots from beyond the arc or attack the basket and finish in traffic.

While the likelihood that he starts is unlikely, the Sumter, South Carolina, native is slated to assume a large role off the bench, mostly in rotation with Duruji at the four.

Other reserves

Tuongthach Gatkek

A late addition to the roster this offseason, Tuongthach Gatkek is a much-needed depth piece for an otherwise thin Gators forward unit.

Showcasing impressive size and length at 6-foot-9, Gatkek played at the junior college ranks for two years, where he proved to be a dominant paint presence on both ends of the floor.

Accounting for 10 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College last season, Gatkek was a major piece in the team's NJCAA Tournament run last season.

Despite the potential that he shows, his small frame at just 172 pounds suggests that he will likely be subject to a development year while he puts on weight to contend with the physicality of interior players in the SEC.

While it is unlikely he will play a considerable amount this season, Gatkek will be a name to watch in emergency cases due to his gifts skillfully. However, in a perfect world, White and Co. will look to develop him into a dynamic rim protector and offensive option for the 2022-23 season.

As a result, Duruji and Felder will be relied upon heavily to overcome the unit's lack of depth.