Positioned on a stage with a Florida athletics step-and-repeat behind him and some microphones and a few dozen reporters in entrance of him, first-year Florida head coach Todd Golden fielded questions on his staff’s intrasquad scrimmage that lasted roughly quarter-hour on Tuesday night time and had gamers working at an NBA All-Star-Recreation-like depth however gave followers a enjoyable glimpse at their squad.
A couple of minutes into the session, Golden was requested about whether or not or not the handful of turnovers his staff had in its half-hearted exhibition had been a trigger for concern. A smile crept throughout the 37-year previous coach’s face. He joked.
“I don’t suppose we’re going to guage a lot about tonight,” Golden mentioned, nonetheless sporting a smile.
There was hardly something to guage in regards to the Gators from Tuesday night time’s show because the staff loved its low-pressure debut in entrance of followers earlier than their season begins on Nov. 7 at residence towards Stony Brook.
Nevertheless, there was some reality to the in any other case festive night, which included 3-point, dunk and half-court contests. Whereas Golden made it clear the lineups for the scrimmage didn’t replicate the staff’s doubtless beginning 5 for opening night time, the Orange staff level guard and middle, Kyle Lofton and Colin Castleton, will probably be among the many first 5 to the touch the ground this season.
“Colin and Kyle, these guys will probably be beginning on Monday,” Golden mentioned.
Castleton was certainly one of eight gamers chosen to the SEC’s all-conference second-team after the 2021-22 season. With an all-conference second-team choice in 2020-21 as properly, Castleton turned the primary Gator since Dorian Finney-Smith in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to earn repeat end-of-season all-SEC honors.
Regardless of coping with a torn labrum that required him to overlook six video games final 12 months, Castleton was a marker of consistency for the Gators, posting eight double-doubles, together with a pair of 20-point and 10-rebound performances towards top-10 opponents. Castleton additionally posted a career-best 29 factors towards then-No. 18 Arkansas on Feb. 22.
The 6-foot-11 ahead led the Gators in minutes per recreation, area objectives made, factors per recreation, rebounds per recreation, and blocks. Castleton additionally completed the common season ranked No. 2 in pictures blocked per recreation (2.44 per recreation) and offensive rebounds per recreation (3.16) within the SEC and third in complete rebounds per contest (9.12) and capturing proportion (.543).
Castleton is broadly projected to take one other step ahead this season.
“Should you can simply discover a strategy to get him a catch 12 or 15 toes from the rim, you already know it’s going to be a great possession,” Golden mentioned. “That’s extremely essential and precious factor to have in your roster. Particularly a man to his credit score who has labored so much on his physique, spent a whole lot of time within the weight room as we’re rehabbing this summer season. It wasn’t like he was simply coasting throughout rehab, he was getting greater and stronger and extra athletic. I believe we’re seeing that now. I believe he’s primed to have a very large 12 months.”
Lofton’s preseason camp hasn’t precisely gone as deliberate. The fifth-year senior guard suffered a lower-body harm simply 5 days into the staff’s preseason follow schedule, eradicating him from motion for simply over two weeks, a stretch that ended at the least partially on Tuesday, Oct. 18, when Lofton was a restricted participant within the Gators’ follow.
Whereas he hasn’t been capable of take part within the majority of his staff’s classes so far, Lofton has remained a vocal a part of this system’s follow environment, cheering for teammates and providing recommendation when he sees match.
It is precisely the form of presence Golden hoped his new level guard would have.
“In the beginning, he’s an amazing chief,” Golden mentioned. “He instructions respect from his teammates however he additionally does a very good job of holding them accountable in a approach that they wish to run by way of a wall for him and he’s only a actually, actually proficient winner as a participant.
Lofton is totally clear and performed roughly half-hour in Florida’s closed-door scrimmage towards Jacksonville.
“He does all of the little issues that you really want as a degree guard,” Golden mentioned. “He makes use of his voice, which is actually essential to me, and like I mentioned, he simply has a very nice rapport together with his teammates. (Senior two-time All-SEC ahead) Colin (Castleton) all the way in which right down to the freshmen respect him in a giant approach and I believe on your level guard, that’s what you dream of getting. I believe that offers us an opportunity to be actually good due to that.”
Whereas the remaining three spots in Florida’s beginning lineup are nonetheless to be decided, Golden mentioned his staff is brimming with gamers able to contributing this season.
Of Florida’s 15 gamers, the first-year coach mentioned he might see 11 of them enjoying precious minutes this season and that there was even a chance walk-on Alex Klatsky may very well be concerned in situations the place the staff wants a 3-pointer late in a contest.
Requested what stood out to him most after greater than a month of preseason camp, Golden shortly pointed to his staff’s depth.
“It’s a problem for me and the workers to drill right down to an eight-man rotation at this level and, to be sincere, we will’t,” he mentioned. “We wouldn’t even attempt.”
The staff’s depth is a byproduct of huge enchancment over the course of the staff’s preseason schedule. Gamers like sophomore guard Trey Bonham appeared to elevated their recreation as a byproduct of accidents.
Sophomore wing Kowacie Reeves grew as a rebounder and scorer across the basket.
The end result was not solely confidence in additional gamers who might see motion through the season, the staff’s general comprehension of Golden’s desired system’s has improved.
“We’ve made some large strides by way of simply actually getting a great understanding holistically inside our program of what we’re making an attempt to do and the way we’re going to get there. Our staff is getting tighter on daily basis and I believe roles are beginning to develop into outlined and we’re starting to play with extra goal. I believe going into the primary week, we’re in a great place.”
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