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May 24, 2014

Hoops transfers bring experience, potential




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Billy Donovan has known Jon Horford for a long time, dating back to his time recruiting Horford's older brother and one of the best players in UF history. So when Horford decided to transfer from Michigan in order to complete his final year of eligibility after finishing his undergraduate degree, Florida was a natural fit.

It just so happened that Horford came at a time of need, as much from a knowledge perspective as performance.

"He's got an understanding of what goes into winning," Donovan said. "I think he's got a really good work ethic. I think he has natural leadership qualities and leadership abilities."

At Michigan, Horford was never confused with a star player and that will continue to be the case at Florida. He's not nearly the talent his brother was, averaging 3.8 points per game or less in each of his three seasons. But he's a reliable 6-foot-10, 250-pound body, and the Gators aren't exactly in need of a big-time weapon. They have Chris Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith as frontcourt players who are prospects of greater prestige than Horford.

But they are fairly inexperienced and a group that was able to hide in the shadows of four seniors throughout the 2013-2014 Final Four run.

"The group we have coming back right now is not a disciplined group, and in order for them to be successful they're going to have to get disciplined. I'm not talking about discipline in terms of off-the-court. I'm talking on the court," Donovan said. "I know Jon, so I think him coming in here, he knows me. So I think even though he's only got one year to play, the transition for him will be pretty smooth."

Donovan pointed to Finney-Smith as a player who needs to take a major step forward this offseason and in the fall. "He's the one guy who should be much, much further along in his discipline." Someone like Horford might be able to help him realize that.

Florida's other transfer addition of John Egbunu will not be eligible for the 2014-2015 season barring some form of waiver - which Donovan did not rule out - but will have three years of eligibility remaining once he takes the floor for the Gators.

Egbunu's ceiling is higher than Horford's and coaches are drawn to his upside. At 6-foot-10 and 249 pounds, he is an essential piece at center in the coming years and has the potential to develop into an elite college basketball player. His rebounding - 6.2 per game - was impressive during his freshman season, but Donovan also sees plenty of areas in which he needs to grow.

"His potential is huge. I think he wants to be really good player," Donovan said. "He knows he needs development in skill. He's probably not a polished offensive player with his back to the basket, although I think this year could be important in helping him do that."


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