Say it ain’t so, Daniel.

Angela Cesere

Daniel Horton’s arraignment on Monday for domestic violence charges led to his indefinite suspension from the men’s basketball team yesterday.

After these developments, I doubt I am the only one on campus shaking my head and wondering what had happened, not just on Dec. 10, when Horton allegedly grabbed and choked his girlfriend, but throughout his puzzling three-year Michigan career.

Ever since Jan. 8, 2003, Horton has embodied the new spirit injected into Michigan basketball. On that night, Horton commandeered a 15-point comeback in the final 5:36 to boost Michigan over Wisconsin, 66-65.

And he did it in star fashion. He finished with 25 points and scored with 7.1 seconds left to push Michigan ahead by one. Then he blocked Devin Harris’s shot on the other end to secure the victory. The students rushed the court, and, suddenly, Horton looked to be the face of a Michigan basketball revolution.

He was voted 2003 Big Ten Freshman of the Year over Illinois’s Dee Brown and Deron Williams and Indiana’s Bracey Wright. But which players are getting all the positive attention now?

Here in 2005, we’re still waiting for the revolution to come to fruition. Michigan fans have begged Horton to become that bright, shining star that can put a team on his back and carry it to victory. He’s had flashes of glory, but they never seem to come when his team really needs it.

Take Horton’s performance in the last five postseason games of 2004. He averaged 14.8 points and 5.0 assists per game, well above his regular season averages of 11.8 points and 3.3 assists per game. The only problem was that they came during the NIT, not the NCAA Tournament.

In Michigan’s biggest games, Horton typically scores somewhere around his average. Horton scored 15 and 12 points at Minnesota and Indiana last year, respectively — two losses that effectively popped Michigan’s Tournament bubble.

This year, it’s been more of the same — like his 13 points in a 61-60 overtime loss to then-No. 18 Arizona in the Preseason NIT that could have changed the face of Michigan’s entire season.

There’s no doubt that Horton has been Michigan’s most valuable player since he arrived here in 2002. The Wolverines would not have come this far without him. But in order to be the leader, the man, the guy people look to for inspiration, Horton has to do more than an average night’s work when his teammates need him most.

Which brings us to the matter at hand. No one is any position to cast guilt yet, not even Amaker who suspended Horton “pending further review,” according to a statement released yesterday.

But no one denied yesterday that something happened on Dec. 10, and it has created a huge distraction before the Wolverines head to Michigan State. Even Horton acknowledged that.

“I understand the severity of the situation I’m in,” Horton said in a statement. “I feel embarrassed about it, and I’m very sorry that my family, team and school have to deal with it too.”

The terms of his suspension prevent him from traveling with the team. An injury to his right knee that he sustained Saturday against Wisconsin might have kept him from playing anyway, but that seems to be a moot point if he can’t even be with the team.

This will be the second period of time this season that Horton has been out of Michigan’s lineup. He missed six games after injuring his left knee earlier in the season. The injuries are in no way Horton’s fault, but they represent the up- and-down season that he has already gone through. It’s getting to the point where the Michigan family can’t even rely on Horton in those big moments, despite the fact that everyone wants to.

“He’s a great guy, from what I know, and a great teammate,” sophomore Dion Harris said. “It was kind of a surprise when I heard (about the arraignment).”

People want to root for Horton, but it’s getting increasingly harder. Even if these charges blow over, will Horton ever become that leader who can put the team on his back again? Or have his teammates and coaches lost faith in him?

One thing is for certain. It’s not 2003 anymore, when students were storming the court around Horton — even though we all wish things were still that simple.

 

Josh Holman can be reached at holmanj@umich.edu

 

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