Horford will transfer to Florida

As a graduate student, Jon Horford will not have to sit out a year before playing at Florida. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 6:23 p.m.

Shortly before Jon Horford decided to transfer to Florida, his older brother offered some advice.

First, former Gator standout power forward Al Horford wanted to make sure Jon’s decision was his own. Second, the Gator-turned-Atlanta Hawks star said he didn’t want Jon to miss out on learning under Florida coach Billy Donovan based on fears of living up to what he accomplished at UF.

“I told him that wouldn’t be a factor in my decision and it wasn’t,” Jon Horford said. “Ultimately, he was correct because it just felt right. Talking with coaches, there are a lot of great places, but Florida felt like the best.”

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Horford agreed to transfer from Michigan to the Gators on Saturday. Pending final paperwork, Florida will likely announce the transfer early next week.

“I just wanted to go somewhere where I could trust the coaching staff and where the coaching staff, I felt, had faith in me as a player,” Horford said.

Because he’s transferring into UF as a graduate student, Horford will be able to play immediately for the Gators as a fifth-year senior. Horford averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes a game last season for the Big Ten champion Wolverines.

Horford gives Florida another frontcourt piece to match Kentucky’s stocked frontline. The Gators return 6-foot-10 center Damontre Harris, 6-10 forward Chris Walker and 6-8 forward Dorian Finney-Smith. In addition, Florida brings in 6-8 transfer forward Alex Murphy and freshman 6-8 forward Devin Robinson.

It’s a crowded frontcourt, but Horford said he sees an opportunity to grow and develop. At Michigan, Horford played in a guard-oriented offensive set by coach John Beilein.

“(Florida) uses the bigs a little bit more and then, depending on the opponent, obviously, you can play two bigs, really big, get up and down the floor,” Horford said. “There’s opportunity in that and also opportunity in the simple basketball stuff, the pick-and-roll, the pick-and-pop, a lot of that stuff that I won’t say I haven’t done, but I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do at Michigan.”

Those are similar skills that Horford’s older brother displayed in helping lead Florida to back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007 before being taken third overall by the Hawks in the 2007 NBA draft. Jon Horford said he doesn’t view the transfer to UF as following his brother’s legacy, considering his production to this point in his college career has been more modest.

“Obviously it’s not something that can be ignored because what him and the group of guys that he played with did at Florida was exceptional,” Horford said. “It’s just a situation where I’m going into a really good team with really good coaches and hope to bring to the table what I bring to the table.”

Asked what he brings to the table, Horford responded: “What I guarantee I can bring is just hard work and leadership, experience, good knowledge for the game, defense, rebounding and everything else will take care of itself.”

Off the court, Horford is not only well spoken but a skilled writer. He penned an essay in the Huffington Post entitled “A Bond Beyond March Madness” that begins “The glimmer of fame that trophies and awards bring is fleeting …” and discusses how the relationships he built through basketball supersede wins and losses.

“I wanted to let people know it’s more than just a bunch of oversized dudes running around throwing basketballs at a rim,” Horford said. “It’s something that guys, they meet their best friends and they learn about life and get an opportunity to grow up …

“Not everyone is going to get it, but a ton of guys who play sports, they have great experiences and they get what it takes to work with a team and, ultimately, hopefully, they understand what’s really important. It isn’t always the game itself, but it’s doing something greater than yourself for the group, and sometimes you have to put self-interest on the back burner.”

When Horford signs his letter of intent, Florida will have filled all 13 of the scholarship spots next season. The list includes Harris, Walker, Finney-Smith, Murphy, Robinson, DeVon Walker, Eli Carter, Dillon Graham, Kasey Hill, Michael Frazier II, Brandone Francis and Chris Chiozza.

Of the 13 scholarship players on the roster, five are transfers — Harris (South Carolina), Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech), Carter (Rutgers), Murphy (Duke) and Horford (Michigan).

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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