Colin Castleton from 3? New Florida basketball coach Todd Golden says he has green light

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida basketball was picked seventh in the SEC men's basketball preseason poll on Wednesday, with senior forward Colin Castleton named to the All-SEC first team.

The Gators return three starters from a team that finished 20-14 and made the second round of the NIT last season. 

One of the starters is Castleton, a 6-foot-11 Michigan transfer who has averaged 14.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots over two seasons with the Gators.

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First-year coach Todd Golden will attempt to blend the returning starters with a handful of potential impact transfers, which include St. Bonaventure guard Kyle Lofton, Belmont guard Will Richard and VMI guard Trey Bonham.

Florida will play two non-public scrimmages -- hosting Miami Saturday and playing at Jacksonville on Oct. 29 -- before an intra-squad scrimmage Nov. 1 at the O'Connell Center. UF's season opener is Nov. 7 at home against Stony Brook.

Here's what Golden, Castleton and Lofton had to say during their appearances on the SEC Network at SEC men's basketball media day on Wednesday:

Improving 3-point shooting

Florida's 256 3-pointers ranked fifth in the SEC last season, but its percentage (30.7 percent) ranked tied for 11th with Arkansas. Only Mississippi State (29.5 percent) and Missouri (28.1 percent) shot worse beyond the arc.

Golden was asked about how he intends to improve his team's 3-point shooting percentage this season.

"It's definitely personnel driven, mainly, but at the same time you have to be able to have a great understanding what the right ones are," Golden said. "We'll be a better shooting team this year. We probably won't shoot as many threes as we shot in the past as my other teams because we have a guy (Castleton) we can throw it into and want to get an easier basket around the rim."

Castleton, 0 for 17 for his career in 3-point shooting, will be given the green light to shoot from 3 on occasion and has shot the ball from 3 in practice.

"He's going to surprise some people," Lofton said. 

Todd Golden looking for Colin Castleton to lead 

Golden said he's looking for Castleton, as Florida's best player, to emerge as more of a vocal leader this season.

"I told Colin part of him coming back, I really wanted him to take pride in leading this program," Golden said. "He was obviously a great leader by example last year, All-SEC player, basically averaging a double-double, having great success against guys who are now playing in the NBA.

"But I continue to ask him to ask more of himself, in terms of his leadership, in terms of being vocal with the guys. He knows what winning is. He knows what's right, what's wrong on the floor and as he continues to lead our younger guys we have a chance to have a pretty good year."

An inspirational message from Patric Young

During the Florida segment, the SEC Network showed an inspirational address that Patric Young gave to the Florida team before a preseason practice. Young, a former Florida standout center who helped lead the Gators to a Final Four in 2014, was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident in Nebraska last July.

 "The most important battle is right now," Young told them. "The most important thing that you have the opportunity is literally right now in this moment. I have one or two years where I have to maximize my recovery. The vision for me is I'm going to walk again ... I was told I have to treat every day like I'm training for the Olympics. I don't want to look back two years from now saying, damn, I could have done more."

Castleton said the message was powerful to current Florida basketball players.

"He's someone who I look up to as a person and a basketball player," Castleton said. "He's someone I've talked to since I got to Florida, when I transferred in. Just one of the best humans I met, a perfect individual in all aspects. 

"It's definitely hard seeing what he's going through, for sure. It definitely touched my heart a lot, just knowing how hard he fights and just his attitude about things, just definitely helps me push through and know he's going to be alright."