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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Three takeaways from Florida men’s basketball’s preseason scrimmage

The Gators previewed their new roster ahead of Nov. 7 season opener

Fifth-year senior Colin Castleton dunks against the Iona Gaels Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Fifth-year senior Colin Castleton dunks against the Iona Gaels Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Florida basketball fans gathered in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for the first time since the Gators matched up against Iona in the NIT Tournament March 16 to watch the orange and blue scrimmage Tuesday night. 

Although Florida didn’t operate at game speed, playing just 12 minutes of a light scrimmage before breaking off into 3-point shootout and dunk contests, there were still some takeaways about the new roster before the real season tips off next week. 

Gators have a deep rotation

Every member of the Florida roster saw playing time in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Although head coach Todd Golden will eventually shorten his rotation, there is a case to be made for almost all of UF’s roster to find solid minutes at points throughout the season. 

Golden’s “gameplan” in the scrimmage had every player involved with ball handling and shot creating duties. The first-year head coach recognized he is in possession of a deep rotation. 

“It’s just a challenge for me and the staff to drill down an eight-man rotation,” Golden said in the post-scrimmage press conference. “To be honest, we can’t and we wouldn’t try. We have a number of guys we feel really good about playing.” 

Golden also mentioned that the team took a trip to Jacksonville University to play a private scrimmage against the Dolphins basketball team. He said many players who came off the bench ended up being key contributors in the scrimmage. 

Last season, the Gators struggled with injuries and filling a serviceable rotation. Golden will seemingly avoid the same issues in his first year at Florida. 

Lofton and Castleton will lead charge

On the subject of rotations, Golden continued to keep the Gators’ full starting lineup under wraps before the season opener. However, he did confirm fifth-year star Colin Castleton and St. Bonaventure transfer Kyle Lofton will both start Monday. The duo is expected to lead the charge for UF this season.

Castleton was named to the All-SEC second team last season averaging 16.2 points and nine rebounds per game. He was both the offensive focal point and defensive leader for the Gators, totaling 62 blocks during the season. He missed multiple games due to a shoulder injury last season, but received surgery over the summer. 

It was somewhat of a surprise to many Gators fans to see Castleton return, as it was speculated he may leave UF to begin his professional basketball career. However, the Gators star returned and will look to lead the team once more this season. Prior to this season's start he was selected by coaches to the Preseason All-SEC First Team. 

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Lofton comes to Florida after a storied four-year career at St. Bonaventure. He tallied more than 1,600 career points and 600 career assists with the Bonnies.

He was named to three All-Atlantic 10 conference teams during his career. During Lofton’s senior season in 2021, he averaged 12.8 points and ranked second in the A10 with an average of 5.9 assists. 

Lofton will now step up to the Southeastern Conference in hopes he can use his abilities to propel Florida to a higher caliber. He will likely play a large chunk of minutes and lead in facilitating the Gators’ offense. 

Reeves to step forward in year two

Alongside Lofton and Castleton, guard Kowacie Reeves should become a big contributor for the Gators. Reeves broke out in the latter half of Florida’s 2021-22 season, averaging 9.1 points in 10 games as a starter his freshman year.

Now Reeves — sporting a new signature haircut — will look to make another leap in 2022-23. 

“He’s gonna make a jump as a sophomore, for sure,” Golden said. “And as the hair goes, he’s a very unique, talented young man. If he wants to express himself that way, that's all good with me, as long as he plays hard.” 

Reeves was active during the scrimmage: running up and down the court at full speed, attacking the rim and fighting for rebounds. The sophomore fan favorite seems geared up to make a splash in year two.

Florida will begin its regular season at home Monday, Nov. 7 against Stony Brook. The game tips off at 8 p.m. and will stream on SEC Network+. 

Contact Jackson Castellano at Follow him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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Jackson Castellano

Jackson Castellano is a junior sports media journalism student at UF and the Senior News Director at The Alligator for Fall 2023. In the past, he's served as the Sports Editor, Assistant Sports Editor and a Sports Reporter covering Football, Men's basketball and Baseball.

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