He still won’t be on the floor when the Gators host Mississippi State on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Florida coach Billy Donovan made it clear on Friday that Horford has been reinstated from his suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. Walk-on Zach Hodskins remains suspended. However, Horford made the decision to take some more time away from the team to make sure he is mentally and emotionally invested.
“He and I have sat down and we've spoken,” Donovan said on Friday. “He really wants some time to try to come back to our team where he's really is emotionally, mentally and physically really, really ready to go and to contribute to the best he can. I agree with him. It's probably a mutual decision.
“I think he's an important guy for us going forward. He's bought in, but I want him to get to a place where he can really invest like he needs to invest. I'm not saying he hasn't invested, but there's also some times where I would think even he would admit that he can even invest and give even more. And it's not with his work ethic. It's with his emotion and his passion and those kind of things."
Donovan wants to make sure Horford returns to the court and gets over this experience with a more consistent mindset. His career, whether at Florida or Michigan, has been inconsistent. He’ll have a great stretch of games before things start to go downhill and hurt the team.
The production is important, but it’s not the end goal. Donovan wants Horford to return when he feels ready to contribute emotionally and mentally to what the team is trying to do.
“You go through some of those experiences as a player up and down, sometimes when you invest as much as Jon has invested in the game, you can get very emotional, you can get, very, very passionate,” Donovan said. “You can sit there and say, ‘why is this not working for me, why I am I not playing better.’ And the thing I respect about Jon is he’s not casting blame on anyone, he’s looking at it and accepting it himself. It wasn’t like this unbelievably bad thing he did, it’s just his attitude at that point and time coming into UConn was not where it needed to be.”
Donovan also sent another message to the team against South Carolina, bringing Michael Frazier off the bench. The Florida coach saw his junior guard putting too much pressure on himself to be the team leader. When he missed a shot, it bogged him down for multiple possessions, feeling like he disappointed his teammates.
He needed to get past that mindset, and after multiple conversations about it, the only other way Donovan could think to get his point across was to bench Frazer. And it worked. He ended the game second on the team with 17 points and reminded Donovan of the player he has been in the last two seasons.
“I was really proud of him,” Donovan said. “I wasn’t proud of the fact he shot the ball well, but I was proud it looked like it he was back to himself, where he was really focused on competing and playing. I liked that, even shots he missed.”
Donovan isn’t sure if he’ll put Frazier back into the starting lineup on Saturday night since Frazier didn’t practice on Thursday with an upper respiratory infection. They were going to see what they could get out of him on Friday and go from there before making any decisions about whether or not he will start.
The Bulldogs bring a 7-7 record into Saturday and dropped their conference opener at home to Tennessee. After having young teams in recent years, third-year coach Rick Ray finally has some veterans on his team. However, he has no starter on Saturday that is averaging double figure points and only one averaging above 2.4 rebounds.
“Rick Ray has done a really good job,” Donovan said. “They rebound the ball well, they’re very good on defense. They’re good with their hands and a good steals team. There will be some similarities to South Carolina in terms of the pressure we’ll face, and then obviously there will be some differences. They mix up their defenses, they plan man and zone. They full court press you some. They do a lot of different things, and it will be a great challenge for us.”