Horford rejoins the Gators

After missing Florida’s first two Southeastern Conference games, senior center Jon Horford is back and will play on Thursday against Auburn.

Horford was suspended for last Wednesday’s game at South Carolina for conduct detrimental to the team. Florida coach Billy Donovan reassessed his situation when the team returned to Gainesville, and he decided that the suspension would be lifted. But it wasn’t that simple.

Horford and Donovan spoke about the situation, and the senior decided that he needed some time away from the program to clear his mind and figure out how to better channel his energy to help the program.

On Monday, Donovan announced that Horford has returned to the team for practice and will play when the Gators host Auburn on Thursday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).

“I think one of the things that John wants to do is, in a lot ways, change his approach,” Donovan said. “When you're dealing with a fifth-year senior, a guy who really cares like he cares, you can get very, very self-consumed and self-absorbed about how you're being impacted and affected. I think for him taking some time to digest, to evaluate and figure out how he can help was probably the reason why I think we both agreed that it'd be better if he did not play against Mississippi State.

“As far as I’m concerned, he served his penalty and it’s over and done with and we move forward.”

Donovan spoke to the media Monday morning before the team practiced, but he did say that Horford was involved during individual work Monday morning. The Florida coach said he didn’t involve other players in the discipline or decision making with Horford, instead allowing them to speak with the senior and help him get comfortable back on the team.

At the same time, Donovan doesn’t want his players to just ignore any feelings they may have about Horford’s suspension. The Florida coach likes when there is confrontation on his team.

“I think sometimes people think confrontation is yelling and screaming back and forth at each other, and that’s not it,” Donovan said. “I think the ability to confront Jon’s behavior at times – and it’s not like it’s been this egregious, unbelievable thing. It was disruptive and it was detrimental to our team, and he didn’t need to be doing some of those things. And our guys being able to confront that, if it’s a problem, is a good thing. Rather than taking the easy way out and saying ‘no, no everything’s fine, everything’s OK’, but deep down inside you may still be harboring some feelings.

“That to me is the confrontation part that needs to take place as a team. I think our guys will do that. It doesn’t need to be a yelling and screaming match, but it needs to be a confrontation of ‘this is what I experienced, this is what I felt.’ I think Jon talking, too, and then being able to forgive and move on and become a closer team through those situations.”

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