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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Micah Handlogten embraces new role into likely redshirt season

The sophomore suffered a season-ending leg injury March 17

Gators men's basketball center Micah Handlogten flexes after a basket in Florida's 102-98 victory over Georgia Saturday, January 27, 2024.
Gators men's basketball center Micah Handlogten flexes after a basket in Florida's 102-98 victory over Georgia Saturday, January 27, 2024.

After starting 33 games for the Florida men’s basketball team last season, sophomore center Micah Handlogten solidified himself as one half of the best rebounding duo in program history alongside graduate student forward Tyrese Samuel.

Florida’s mission this offseason won’t be to improve Handlogten’s vertical jump or free-throw shooting. It will be to ensure the potential redshirt sophomore is in a solid headspace after suffering a leg injury in the SEC championship game March 17.

Handlogten will need to feel comfortable throughout his injury-rehab process. UF head coach Todd Golden understands this narrative all too well regarding the 7-foot-1-inch Marshall transfer. 

“He’s doing great, he’s probably going to redshirt next year,” Golden said. “The number one key in my mind is his comfort and his recovery. He had a great surgery, everything at Vanderbilt [hospital] went really really well. Just talking to him, I think it would be best for him to know that he doesn't feel pressured to try to get back quick.”

Redshirting will allow Handlogten to not only strengthen his leg, but work on his fundamental skills on the court. Golden envisions a positive outcome will come to fruition if a fully healthy Handlogten returns to Florida’s lineup.

“My hope is not next year [2024-25], but the year after, he should be an absolute monster as he comes back fully healthy with a lot of confidence on the leg,” Golden said.

With the 2023-24 season coming to an end, it gave Handlogten time to mentally reset and find out what the best course of action was for his remaining two years of eligibility.

Florida landed two new recruits this offseason via the transfer portal who will both replace the significant production left behind by Handlogten, who played an important role in landing the two new additions to UF’s roster.

“Micah is such a great dude,” Golden said. “He helps us recruit these other bigs. He's an awesome, awesome young man.”

Washington State sophomore center Reuben Chinyelu and Chattanooga junior forward Sam Alexis will provide a much-needed boost to the Florida frontcourt that could lose just under 7 rebounds per game with the absence of Handlogten.

Chinyelu boasts a 7-foot-8-inch wingspan and averaged 4.7 points for WSU last season in just 14 minutes per game. He recorded 45 blocks in 12 starts as a freshman.

Alexis is coming off an all-conference honoree season averaging 10.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. The Florida native ranked No. 43 in defensive rebounding percentage and No. 37 in block percentage in 2023-24, according to 247Sports.

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“In a way it [Handlogten redshirting] helps us because before we got Reuben and Sam, if guys were looking at us [in the portal], and they saw Micah coming back [as a starter] we knew it’d be hard.” Golden said. 

Dealing with transfer portal and NIL negotiations in college basketball grows even more difficult when utilizing it to replace a significant player that will unexpectedly miss the upcoming season.

However, after having a conversation with Handlogten following the end of Florida’s postseason run, it became evident sitting out a year would be in the best interest of the rising junior.

“I think [redshirting] was good for Micah [and] good for our program,” Golden said. “Now he can just pour all of his efforts into his rehab and not feel the pressure of, ‘I need to get back on the court by November.’”

It won’t be entirely the same team around Handlogten this offseason after the departure of  graduate student guard Zyon Pullin and Samuel.

The former Gators showed no hesitation in showing gratitude for the center’s production on and off the court.

“Micah is so valuable for our team,” Samuel said. “Especially on the offensive rebounding side of things. Losing him early kind of affected us a little bit. We really care about him, he's part of our family.”

Pullin left behind a stellar season donning orange and blue but wouldn’t leave his legacy behind without showing remorse for Handlogten.

“It’s definitely tough to see him go down like that,” Pullin said. “We just tried to rally together and kind of focus on staying together.”

Despite the disappointing premature end to the season for the 7-footer, the future remains bright.

Suffering a season-ending injury can steer the career path of an athlete for better or worse. But it hasn’t stopped Handlogten from showing the gratitude he has for the fanbase and Florida’s program.

“Out of surgery and doing well,” Handlogten said in a post from X on March 17. “Gator Nation, thank you for all of the love and prayers. It has helped more than anyone could imagine.”




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Max Tucker

Max Tucker is a junior transfer student at UF. After obtaining his A.A. in Journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose further his education at Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a specialization in sports and media. He enjoys golfing and going to the beach with his friends in his free time. Max will be covering the Gators Golf teams this Fall for The Alligator.


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