Michigan's Jon Horford ends 11-month absence with promising debut against Slippery Rock
ANN ARBOR -- It had been roughly 11 months since Jon Horford stepped onto the court for a live-action game.
But it took 15 seconds for him to remember how much he missed it.
After receiving a loud ovation from the Crisler Center crowd Friday during a win over Slippery Rock, the Michigan sophomore forward officially found his way back -- grabbing an offensive rebound and completing a 3-point play less than 30 seconds after checking in for the first time in nearly a year.
For Horford, rehab is finally over.
"That felt really good," said Horford, who had four points, a rebound and an assist during his season-debut against Slippery Rock. "I wasn't even sure if I was going to play, coach said it was going to be in an emergency situation only.
"But when (two big guys got into foul trouble), he was like, 'go in.' "
After breaking a bone in his foot in December of 2011, Horford and Michigan ultimately decided it'd be best for him to sit the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign to rehab and preserve a redshirt year.
It was a long wait for Horford, especially at first, as he tried several times to get healthy enough to return to action. He came close a few times, but never close enough.
The year finally ended and Horford returned to full-action workouts in the summer, carrying over good momentum into fall practice. But a knee injury less than a month ago threatened to ruin Horford's plans again.
The key word there, of course, is only threatened.
"I feel really good," Horford said after getting 8 minutes of action against Slippery Rock. "I feel as good as I've ever felt."
Horford's healthy -- finally. And once he gets the full feel of what it's like to be on the court again, Michigan might finally be able to unveil its major two-post plans for the 2012-13 campaign.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Horford gives Michigan a true third big man in the rotation -- behind junior Jordan Morgan and freshman Mitch McGary. Michigan coach John Beilein says the re-emergence of Horford gives the Wolverines the flexibility to use several different lineups, and also combat big man foul trouble throughout the season.
But that'll all come later.
Right now, everyone's just happy Horford's back at full strength.
"This is such a wonderful kid," Beilein said of Horford. "I wanted to play him in the second half, but I wasn't sure, I don't think he was as ready to play as we'd hoped -- but for him to just get in there and make a basket was huge."
Horford and No. 5 Michigan return to the court Monday against IUPUI (9 p.m., ESPNU) in an opening-round game of the 2012 NIT Tip-Off tournament.