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Gators Jason Jitoboh Undergoes Eye Surgery; Will Miss Remainder of Season

The Florida Gators lose another big man with reserve center Jason Jitoboh joining starter Colin Castleton on the shelf after undergoing eye surgery.

The Florida Gators will endure the remainder of their 2021-22 schedule without center Jason Jitoboh.

On Friday, head coach Mike White shared that Jitoboh was forced to undergo eye surgery due to the injury, and he will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

"He's a wonderful young man, and it's just really tough scenario for him," White said on Friday. 

A major concern heading into the season for the Gators was a barren frontcourt that lacked adequate depth in case of injury.

Equipped with just one player with considerable experience in Colin Castleton, Florida realized what it thought to be its worst nightmare when he suffered a "significant" shoulder injury prior to the Gators matchup with Mississippi State on Jan. 19.

However, the news keeps getting worse.

On Wednesday, the unit became even more depleted when Castelton's replacement in Jitoboh went down after being hit in the eye by a Tennessee defender, fighting for a loose ball off the glass.

Clutching his face under the basket following the incident, the Gators center would be escorted off the court, taken back to the locker room for evaluation and ruled out for the remainder of the contest.

On Friday, Florida announced that Jitoboh is done for the year.

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Jitoboh was serving valuable minutes in the absence of Castleton for the first time in his career his season. As a result, he produced the best numbers of his career, averaging 4.1 points on over 60% from the field and 2.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per contest.

His numbers would increase to 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the four games he started this season, reaching career highs of 12 points (on 100% from the field) against Ole Miss and 10 rebounds against Vanderbilt.

Now, the Gators will be forced to look elsewhere for frontcourt production, namely on the boards as a team that already struggles in that area.

White will be put in a bind as a result.

Tuongthach Gatkek, 6-foot-9, and CJ Felder, 6-foot-7, will be the best options to assume a role at the five spot going forward.

Gatkek's length will be his calling card for considerable time as he saw against Tennessee, although his lack of experience and slim build will not bode well against a towering squad of Kentucky who appears on Florida's schedule twice in the remaining 11 games.

Meanwhile, Felder possesses the intensity and scrappiness to find success on the interior, but his lack of size and battle with a non-COVID illness as of late does not bode well for in the short term.

The Gators' first challenge without their two big men comes against Oklahoma State at home on Saturday. Tip-off of the Big 12/SEC challenge matchup is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

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