The Todd Golden era of Florida basketball has already been an action-packed ride consisting of heavy roster reconstruction this offseason.
In an effort to reignite a dormant program by courting a serviceable squad that fits his system, Golden has made quick work in the talent acquisition process. Heavily utilizing the transfer portal to bring four experienced faces into the mix alongside two incoming freshmen, Florida’s rotation will look drastically different than it did a season ago.
The Gators will look to mend the newcomers with the players Golden convinced to stay put in orange and blue for his first year at the helm during the crucial summer camp period coming up.
He feels confident in his ability to make the most of the first-year roster.
“I think we’re in good shape,” Golden said Thursday evening about the state of said roster heading into the summer. “I would more say we’ve added on to more of what we were able to keep.”
Inheriting a roster amid significant turnover, Golden's first mission was to maintain the pieces he believed could serve as building blocks for the future.
Priority number one: Rising fifth-year senior Colin Castleton.
“As a lot of you are aware, when we got here – specifically me and my staff – it was really important to me to make a run at Colin to see if we could get him to use his fifth year,” he said. “We had a lot of success last year at San Francisco with Jamaree Bouyea, a different position but the same idea of keeping a really talented, mature player that had experienced a lot of success in the program to build around, and obviously it helped for us.”
“I thought that Colin could be that piece for us if he was willing to buy into what we are doing and had a great attitude about coming back, which he did.”
Castleton, who enters his third season with the Gators, has arguably been one of the better big men in the SEC over the past two seasons. Serving as the offensive focal point, Castleton’s performance — albeit streaky — showcased the potential to elevate Florida to victories even in games they shouldn’t win.
His presence back on the court and in the locker room served as a “really good start” for the new staff.
From there, they started to look toward the others they could keep alongside the incumbent starter at center.
Kowacie Reeves Jr., Niels Lane, Myreon Jones, Jason Jitoboh and CJ Felder are all slated to return to the team next season. They each bring different components to the table.
Reeves, who flashed signed of offensive star power down the stretch last season, is arguably the most substantial retention the staff was able to make due to his promise as a shooter and growing two-way toolkit.
The staff made a potential move out the door for Reeves this offseason short-lived, convincing him not to enter the transfer portal and remain in Gainesville just two days after rumors speculated about his decision to look at his options.
Lane returns after a successful defensive campaign where he showcased the ability to lock down opposing teams' top scorers consistently with sound technique and eye-popping athleticism.
Jones’ propensity to knock down shots from the perimeter bodes well for Golden’s system. However, they will attempt to maintain the confidence he sported late last season to ensure more consistency in his performance.
Jitoboh and Felder return to provide depth in the frontcourt.
“I think all those guys have potential to be impactful players for us this year,” Golden said. “Then, on top of that, adding the guys we did, we feel really good about our roster and the depth we have now.”
Drawing in the likes of Will Richard, Alex Fudge, Trey Bonham and Kyle Lofton from the transfer portal — as well as Denzel Aberdeen and Riley Kugel in the 2022 class — Florida has gained athleticism, efficiency and depth at nearly all spots on the court moving forward.
Namely, Bonham and Lofton give the Gators an elite rotation at the point guard spot to command the court following former starter Tyree Appleby’s departure.
The team's summer workouts will give Golden an in-depth preview of the squad he will deploy in the 2022-23 season.
However, with Castleton on the shelf recovering from shoulder surgery this offseason and Jitoboh continuing to rehab from a severe eye injury he suffered last season against Tennessee, Golden hopes to fill the final roster spot with one more piece in the frontcourt before summer workouts officially commence.
“We’re still a little thin inside. I would say we have really good players in the frontcourt, but we’re susceptible to an injury or two of being really a big issue for us going into next year with the roster being the way it is,” he said.
“So, we’ll try to add one more big to give us some depth in the frontcourt.”
The only remaining known big man target on the market the Gators have contacted to this point is Washington State center transfer Efe Abogidi.
Landing him would fill Florida’s final open spot.
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