Daniel Horton has been playing basketball since he was a child – and from the looks of things right now, he has a long, successful career ahead of him at Michigan.
Horton has improved dramatically since the start of the season. Through the first nine games he had more turnovers than assists, but since then, he is averaging more than five assists to just three turnovers a game.
“I’m getting more comfortable as each game goes by,” Horton said. “First couple of games I was kind of nervous because it was my first couple of college basketball games, but now it seems like I’m getting into the flow and getting more comfortable. It is starting to get like every other level I played in. Once I get comfortable, I start to play well. My teammates and my coaches have helped me adjust more and become more comfortable to the level of play.”
While some freshmen may have a problem coping with the pressure of a college career, Horton has not buckled or even shown signs of stress yet.
“There’s no pressure,” Horton said. “It’s basketball, and I don’t see how people find pressure in playing basketball.”
But if you have ever seen Chris Webber pass up on a shot at the end of the game, you know some people do find pressure and shy away from it. Horton is not one of those. The point guard stares “pressure” in the face and then drains the 3-pointer, as he did so many times against Wisconsin, at Northwestern and at Ohio State.
The consummate team player, Horton credits his ability to make plays to his teammates as much as himself.
“I’ve got guy’s making plays,” Horton said. “I would like to say it is me being clutch, but it is mostly my teammates. They are doing a lot of things to put me in the right position to make plays.”
Those pressure situations in which it is Horton alone at the top of the key are what he lives for. From there, Horton has a myriad of options. He can call for a pick, drive the lane and use his penetration to open up a teammate, pull up for a midrange jumper or – as he is so prone to do – square up to the basket and launch a triple. In any given game, Horton will do some or all of these.
Against Northwestern, Horton arguably had the play of the game in such a situation. With the shot clock running low in the second half, Horton drove to the basket – used his body to protect the ball and initiate contact with the defender – and laid up a circus shot off the glass. He went on to make his free throw to complete the three-point play.
He runs the point with poise and confidence and has shown no signs of his nervousness from the beginning of the season.
When No. 4 begins to crouch low and look his defender in the eye as he calmly dribbles the ball at the top of the key, there is a good chance that something special is about to happen.
“For a point guard, that’s the ultimate,” Horton said. “The shot clock winding down, and it is just you and your man, and you’ve got to go make a play.”