Five minutes into the second half of Friday’s 81-77 win over Nike Elite, freshman point guard Daniel Horton grabbed the front of his jersey to wipe off excess sweat while maintaining his dribble. Seeing that his man was playing four steps off of him out of respect for his penetration ability, Horton took two steps forward and nailed a three from 26 feet out to give the Wolverines a four-point lead.
The threat of creating off the dribble – combined with his sharp shooting ability – are what made Horton one of the Wolverines’ most coveted recruits. Horton also displayed the court leadership and awareness that coaches expect of him as he seemed to be in control of the Michigan offense and tempo all night.
“With guys running like they did tonight, it makes it easy to hit them streaking to the basket,” Horton said.
Horton, who made his first start for Michigan on Friday, displayed much more dynamism than in his first game as he led the Wolverines with six assists and 11 points while shooting 50-percent from behind the arc in 30 minutes of play. He also earned two trips to the free throw line after beating his defender, forcing his opponent to foul him to prevent an easy layup.
Horton showed more discipline as the game went on and became more comfortable running the offense.
After committing two turnovers in the first half, he had just one in the 18 minutes he played during the second half.
“He’s able to get in the lane and go by guys,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “That is something (we) probably want him to do a little bit more of.
“At times he is trying to please us by running the team or running the offense. Maybe he doesn’t think of himself enough.”
But the unselfishness Horton has shown is something the coaches have emphasized with the freshman. After Friday’s game, Amaker made a list of Horton’s priorities.
“First we want him to lead our team and show leadership,” Amaker said. “Second thing we want him to do is make good decisions, the third is defend the other point guard. I think (Dave) Ferguson had 26, so we have some work to do there. And the fourth thing is look to score, because we know he can. I think that checklist is pretty good for him right now.”
Horton’s freshman mate in the backcourt, Lester Abram, also continued to display his versatility. The backcourt combination combined for 26 points and were able to find each other on fast-break opportunities as their confidence continued to grow.
“We were penetrating gaps and looking for each other because it seemed like every time we had penetrated one of us was open, and we were just working off that,” Abram said.
“You see the things they are capable of doing,” said Amaker of his freshmen. “Their contributions have been felt from day one when we stepped onto the practice court. I think you can see what they are capable of doing and they are setting a foundation for things to come.”