Micah Handlogten's inspiring presence energizes Gators despite devastating injury

The center broke his leg during the SEC Championship game

SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship
SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

When Florida center Micah Handlogten fell to the court just two minutes into the SEC championship game, the hush that fell over the arena was deafening. His agonizing left leg fracture was the type of grisly injury that shakes a team to its core. But in the days since that sickening moment, Handlogten's response has been incredibly inspiring.

Despite being rushed into surgery to have a rod and screws inserted into his shattered leg, the 7-foot-1 sophomore is determined to travel from the Vanderbilt Medical Center to Indianapolis. He'll make the four-hour trip with his parents to support his "brothers" as the seventh-seeded Gators open NCAA Tournament play on Friday.

His presence courtside promises to be a powerful emotional boost for a Florida team making its first March Madness appearance in three years under second-year coach Todd Golden. Handlogten's selfless leadership and team-first attitude have been hallmarks during his time in Gainesville.

"Micah has done so much for this program," said teammate Will Richard. "He's a great guy, great teammate, hard worker. For us, it's all about going out and playing for him now."

While his stat line was modest, Handlogten embodied the blue-collar identity that made this Gators squad SEC contenders. His 108 offensive boards ranked first on the team, while his 29 blocks showcased his underrated defensive impact. More importantly, he set the tone with his tireless work ethic and uplifting personality.

"I love the boys to death. They're my brothers," Handlogten told the team website. "I'm looking forward to spending my junior and senior years with them too."

That opportunity to rejoin his teammates on the court seemed in jeopardy after the devastating injury. As he lay on the floor, his horrified parents looked on, his mother wearing his No. 3 jersey. But even as he was loaded onto a stretcher, bleeding and impossibly stoic, Handlogten's resilient spirit shone through.

"This is not a setback, this is an opportunity," he said, leaning on his faith. "God will guide me, and I'll be a better player for it. I have something to work for now."

That attitude has uplifted the Gators as they prepare for March Madness. Coach Golden called it "a huge lift" for Handlogten and the entire team.

"He's in great spirits, way better than I would be," Golden admitted. "We're still feeling [the injury] a little bit. But this gives us something big to rally around."

For Handlogten, the long road to recovery begins now. But for the Gators, his inspirational presence at the NCAA Tournament sends a powerful message – this team's strength goes far beyond any single player. Fueled by their teammate's courage, they take the court with a collective resilience.