Jon Horford leaves Michigan basketball team

Jon Horford, left, played a key role off the bench for the Wolverines this season.

Bob Donnan/Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The first shoe dropped Thursday for Michigan’s 2014-15 basketball roster.

It didn’t come from one of the expected sources, though.

John Beilein announced that junior power forward Jon Horford is leaving the program to transfer to another school. Since Horford graduates next month, he will be eligible to play immediately.

"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 played a key role off the bench for the Wolverines this season, teaming up with Jordan Morgan to create "Morford" — a two-man combination that filled the gap left by Mitch McGary’s back injury. During his career, the Wolverines won two Big Ten titles, played in the 2013 national-championship game, and went back to the Elite Eight this year.

"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. With his graduation this May, he will have the opportunity to play immediately at another Division I program. We will be rooting for him every step of the way."

Horford’s decision makes the most sense if he knows, or at least surmises, that McGary will return to the team instead of going to the NBA. Even with Morgan’s graduation, Horford would lose much of his playing time with McGary considered one of the best big men in the country.

It is also possible that Horford thinks that McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III are all leaving, and he wants to play for a better team in his final season. However, in that scenario, he would be playing significant minutes for a team that still includes Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, plus redshirt freshman Mark Donnal.