We’re nowhere near the first game of Todd Golden’s tenure, but the new Florida men’s basketball head coach is racking up wins in his first month on the job.
First, he assembled an outstanding staff, including veteran SEC assistant Korey McCray and Carlin Hartman, who served under Lon Kruger during most of his tenure at Oklahoma.
Then Golden and his staff made Belmont transfer guard Will Richard a priority target. Before Richard could get to his next visit lined up with another school, he committed to the Gators this past weekend.
Then on Monday, two-time All-SEC center Colin Castleton announced that he was returning to school for his final year of eligibility.
Despite missing six games with a shoulder injury this past season, Castleton averaged 16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He made 54.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, helping the Gators to a 20-14 overall record and a trip to the second round of the NIT.
As a junior in 2020-21, Castleton quickly emerged as a starter after coming off the bench in his first three UF games after transferring from Michigan. The 6-foot-11 center helped the Gators to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. In an overtime win over Va. Tech in the opening round, Castleton finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and one steal in 43 minutes of action.
For the year, he averaged 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 BPG. Castleton buried 59.7 percent of his FGAs and 78.1 percent of his free-throw attempts.
“Coach Golden invested a lot of effort into talking with me and my family,” Castleton told long-time UF beat writer Chris Harry of FloridaGators.com. “He called his first day on the job. He flew to town and met with my family. He sold me on how much he wants to win. I think he and I have some similar character traits. We’re both humble for our opportunities, but both have chips on our shoulder. He wants to win and I love his vision for the program.”
Castleton and the team’s medical staff still haven’t decided if he’s going to have offseason surgery to repair the shoulder he hurt in practice in mid-January.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it … it sucked being in the NIT,” said Castleton. “We sold ourselves short this year and sold our fan base short. We’re making the tournament next season, I’m telling you that right now.”