Larson: No scholarship, but manning up

Cody Larson could have left. The redshirt sophomore forward could have turned in his orange and blue jersey and never looked back. But he didn't. Larson was served up a heavy decision for his future this season: return to Florida's roster without his scholarship or transfer. On Wednesday, coach Billy Donovan announced Larson no longer rests on the roster as a scholarship athlete, but as a walk on.

Donovan said the Larson, a Sioux Falls, S.D. native, had "responsibility issues over the past year." He acknowledged Larson's past, alluding to Larson's criminal trespassing arrest last year. However, Donovan said Larson's scholarship wasn't pulled because of his rocky record but rather, due to his "level of responsibility."

Florida's head coach said he told Larson he expected to see some things from him throughout the course of last year, but Larson came up short.

"I've been through some different situations with Cody in trying to help him get better on the court, off the court, in the classroom, and taking care of responsibilities," Donovan said. "And it was something he was not doing."

Donovan said he got Larson's family involved and informed them Larson's scholarship was not going to be renewed until he tackled those responsibilities. The 6-foot-9 forward who entered UF as a four-star recruit, would have to earn it back.

And right now, Donovan said, he's as proud as he ever has been of Larson.

"I've seen a total change in him from the time the season ended last year to now, up to this point in time," Donovan said. "I think he can be a productive player for us in the future. But, I also felt like it was important for him to have some skin in the game where he was going to take some responsibility for his future, his career and what he wants to be."

Larson said he sees that change in himself. His focus and maturity are finally falling into place — something he said fought with last year.

"My focus wasn't in the right place," Larson said. "I came in and worked hard every day — that hasn't changed. It's just my clarity, my mind. Doing the right things has really helped me on the court."

However, he admitted maintaining that focus isn't something that comes easily. He has to work at it.

"It's something I have to constantly think about every day," Larson said. "Coach is great at facilitating that kind of thought. He'll make you think about things. My teammates have been really helpful. As you do it more, it's easier to keep that focus."

Teammate and center Patric Young said he couldn't be more proud of the strides Larson has made thus far. Young said he has noticed Larson embracing his own identity and not letting what others may think about him affect who he is or what he does. "Many guys could get in trouble and run away, they don't own up to the mistakes they've made," Young said. "But he has manned up to it. He has taken changes in his life."

Young said he has noticed Larson taking care of business and command of those aforementioned responsibilities.

In light of the revocation of his scholarship, Larson said he's been able to revert back to basics on the court and he's just going through the motions.

"I feel like I have nothing to prove right now — the complete opposite," Larson said. "I'm just playing right now. No expectations. I just get to go out and play. I think that's allowed me to play more like myself."

Larson said he notices himself playing more loosely on the court and he has been posting more points when he clocks in practice time.

But the progress Larson continues to make is beyond the game of basketball — something Donovan kept in mind throughout this whole process. Larson wasn't a guy the Gators relied on much last season, Donovan said. Larson averaged .5 points and .8 rebounds in the 25 games he saw action in. However, Donovan said he became consumed with helping Larson out later in life, regardless of where basketball may take him.

"None of us are perfect," Donovan said. "I think we all make mistakes and do things that we learn from. I think he has learned some valuable lessons and I think he's better off for it. I think he's going to benefit down the road."

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