Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Larson was far from surprised at the decision he was faced with this summer and that acknowledgement, combined with the mature choice he made, could be the first steps on the road to his turnaround with the Florida Gators.
Florida head coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday during the team’s annual media day that Larson is no longer on scholarship but will pay his own way and remain with the Gators as a walk-on player.
Donovan did not come to this decision based on what Larson has done as a player during games (which has not been much to this point) but rather due to off-the-court issues both basketball related and not.
“Cody has had some responsibility issues over last year and I think certainly some of the things with Cody’s past [were] well documented. It had nothing to do with those things but had more to do with his level of responsibility here,” Donovan explained. “There were some things I wanted him to do during the course of the year that he knew there was a possibility [if] he didn’t do these things there was a chance he may not be back and he came up short on those things.”
He continued, “I think everyone’s scholarship is very valuable and you want guys to have a responsibility to take care of things they need to take care of and for Cody, those things were not happening. So, we got his family involved. Basically informed his family we were not going to renew his scholarship until he took care of these things. [We] gave Cody the option to transfer if he wanted to leave to find another school and also gave him the option to come back, try to earn his scholarship back. To his credit, this is where he wanted to be.”
Larson’s difficult decision, the first on a long list of things he must do in order to prove his commitment to the program, was a big step in the right direction for Donovan, who said he is pleased with what he has seen from him so far this offseason.
Read the rest of this story on Larson and Donovan…after the break!
“I’m as proud of Cody today and maybe more so than I ever have been with him being in our program. Really I’ve seen a total change in him from the time the season ended last year to now up to this point in time,” he said. “I think he can be a productive player for us in the future. But, I also felt like it was important for him to have some skin in the game where he was going to take some responsibility for his future, his career and what he wants to be.
“I think for Cody, it would’ve been very easy to just move to another school. He’s not a guy that played a lot of minutes. He wasn’t a guy that we relied on a lot last year. But I was more consumed by trying to help him as a kid for later on in life, regardless of where basketball takes him. I think it would have been easy for Cody just to pick up and leave and to go somewhere else where maybe he would get more playing time, if he wanted to go somewhere to play.
“I give him credit for wanting to see this thing through. He’s taking care of his responsibilities and doing all the things we asked him to do. I think he’s been a totally different person at this point in time. None of us are perfect. I think we all make mistakes and do things that we learn from and I think he’s learned some valuable lessons, and I think he’s better off for it and I think he’s going to benefit down the road.”
Larson is not the only new walk-on the Gators accepted this offseason as the school announced Wednesday that Donovan’s son of the same name decided to transfer from the Division III Catholic Cardinals (where he was on scholarship) after two seasons to learn the game under his father’s wing at Florida.
The younger Donovan originally attended Catholic not only because of the school and basketball program but due to the fact that he was interested in pursuing politics as a career (the university is located in Washington, D.C.). His career aspirations now appear to be centered on the game of basketball and following in his father’s footsteps by working as either a coach or administrator.
“It’s going to be interesting. Selfishly, I’m happy he’s back,” Coach Donovan said. “Selfishly, when you have your son, you get a chance to coach him, I don’t think a parent get a chance to do that. Most of the time as a parent, when your kid goes off to college, outside of some infrequent visits maybe [you speak to them] through the phone or see them a little bit, but I get a chance to be around him every single day in a different light.
“For me, that will be a lot of fun, and I think he also understand his role on the team. He’s walking on. He’s going to try to do whatever he can to help. Hopefully the exposure of being here and seeing what goes into preparation, scouting, individual workouts, recruiting, all that stuff, he can get a taste to make a decision if this is something he really wants to do in his life.”
The younger Donovan will not be able to play in the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He does, however, already have a taste of playing in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as Catholic came to Florida last year for an exhibition game (3-for-7 for 13 points with four rebounds, three assists, three turnovers in 27 minutes).