Lun. Abr 15th, 2024


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida center Micah Handlogten, who gruesomely broke his left leg two minutes into the SEC championship game Sunday, will be on hand to watch his team in the NCAA tournament.

Already using crutches while recovering from surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, Handlogten will make the four-hour ride to Indianapolis with his parents to watch the seventh-seeded Gators play either Boise State or Colorado on Friday in the opening round of the tournament.

Handlogten’s presence is sure to provide an emotional lift for the Gators (24-11), who are returning to the NCAA tourney for the first time in three years. It’s the program’s first appearance under second-year coach Todd Golden.

«It’s going to be awesome,» Handlogten told the team website. «I love the boys to death. They’re my brothers. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to spend my sophomore year with, and I’m looking forward to spending my junior and senior year with them, too.

«People who know me know I’m a firm believer in God, and I can only trust in him that everything is part of a plan. This is not a setback. This is an opportunity.»

Handlogten started 32 games this season and averaged 5.3 points and 6.9 rebounds. His production dipped late in the season as freshman Alex Condon cut into his playing time. Handlogten had more fouls (44) than points (43) over Florida’s last 15 games.

Still, he was an integral part of the Gators’ deepest frontcourt rotation since they won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007. He led the team with 108 offensive rebounds and ranked third with 29 blocks, and he will be missed.

«He’s an incredible teammate,» Golden said after the loss to Auburn in the SEC title game. «Even when he’s not playing his best, he has great energy on the bench [and] is always supporting all the guys on the floor.»

Handlogten had two rebounds against the Tigers and was trying to come down with a third when he landed awkwardly on his left foot. He immediately went down in pain and rolled onto his side, putting his hands to his face.

Blood was visible on the back of his calf as trainers and coaches rushed to Handlogten’s side. Handlogten’s parents were escorted onto the court from their seats in the stands. His mother, Danielle, wearing his No. 3 jersey, kneeled near her son’s head as he was treated on the court with his father nearby.

Handlogten’s leg was stabilized in an air cast before he was placed on a backboard and taken off the court on a stretcher. Teammates came over to wish Handlogten well as he was rolled off the court, and sophomore Riley Kugel was crying on Florida’s bench.

Handlogten ranked 11th nationally, averaging 2.3 shots blocked per game, at Marshall, where he was the Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year in 2022-23. The 7-foot-1 center from Huntersville, North Carolina, transferred to Florida in hopes of making the NCAA tournament.

He’ll be there as a cheerleader now — and with a daunting road ahead.

«It’s a long recovery, but I’m looking forward to it,» he said. «God will guide me, and I’ll be a better player for it.

«I’m going to come back better and stronger for it. I have something to work for. I have a goal in mind, and I’m going to strive to reach it.»


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