In a rather shocking development, the first Michigan men’s basketball player to announce his departure this offseason is Jon Horford.
On a day that began with reports that sophomore guard Nik Stauskas had decided to depart for the NBA Draft — Stauskas later shot down the notion that he had reached a final decision — the Wolverines lost a player who was expected to be an integral part of next year’s lineup.
“My time at Michigan has been the most beneficial period of my life in terms of athletic development and overall enlightenment,” Horford said in a statement. “The bonds created over the last four years are everlasting, and the memories made are truly priceless. As on all journeys, new paths must be taken and intuition must be trusted. I leave Michigan with nothing but love in my heart.”
Horford, who averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in slightly less than 14 minutes per game this season, started seven games before fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan took over the majority of the minutes at the ‘5’ spot. However, with Morgan graduating and sophomore forward Mitch McGary’s status still in limbo — he, along with Stauskas and sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III are contemplating whether to forgo their final two years of college eligibility in favor of a professional career — Horford could’ve found himself as a near lock to start and play significant minutes next year.
Because Horford will graduate next month, he can transfer to any school and play immediately next season, so long as he enrolls in a graduate program that isn’t offered at the University, per NCAA rules.
Should McGary decide to leave, Michigan’s only true post player with experience would be Max Bielfeldt, though the redshirt sophomore has played only in spots — mostly when Horford or Morgan were in foul trouble. Bielfeldt appeared in just 19 of the Wolverines’ 37 games this season, scoring 15 total points and pulling down 1.1 rebounds per game while rarely playing more than a few minutes at a time.
Freshman Mark Donnal, who redshirted this season, will also likely play a prominent role in the lineup. Donnal added 10-15 pounds since the season began and has raised eyebrows in practice lately.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said two weeks ago. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
Another option, one Michigan coach John Beilein hinted at during his Wednesday press conference, is seeking a transfer to fill a void — a practice he used regularly while coaching Richmond, Canisius and West Virginia.
“If we have openings and there are transfers that fit who we are, we are open to that,” Beilein said.
With Morgan gone, Michigan also loses another active voice in the locker room. Should Robinson leave too, Michigan would have to replace each of its captains for the second offseason in a row.
“Jon has been an integral part of our many accomplishments over the last four years,” Beilein said. “He brought great enthusiasm, leadership and work ethic to our program. Jon is a wonderful young man who has a very bright future ahead of him.
“We will be rooting for him every step of the way.”