The seconds, minutes and hours passed by on a warm Friday night last June as Michigan coach Tommy Amaker and his assistants sat patiently in the Crisler Arena stands, watching who they hoped would be the future of their program shoot hoops with his younger brother, Jason. Finally, at 2 a.m., after hours of one-on-one, Daniel Horton, the droopy-eyed point guard from Texas, was ready to go home. But by the time he was ready to leave, he had already found his home for the next four years.

Paul Wong
TOM FELDKAMP/Daily

After meeting Michigan’s academic counselors and having his father ask the obligatory “Ed Martin question,” Horton made his decision known to his father and Amaker. He wanted to help the Wolverines return to national prominence.

“They didn’t leave,” said Horton of the Michigan coaching staff that night in Crisler. “I knew if I wanted to put the work in, they would let me, and that dedication of sticking around said a lot to me. When I went to Florida and Texas, the coaches told me they had things to do and kicked me out of the gym.”

Horton says Amaker’s passion for basketball and his down-to-earth attitude separated him from other coaches. Many coaches tried to impress one of the nation’s top recruits with state of the art facilities or their ability to get players into the NBA. But Amaker focused on the importance of academics and his desire to make Horton the first major piece in rebuilding the Michigan program.

“What separated Michigan from the rest of the schools was the academics,” said Horton, who is currently enrolled in the school of Literature, Science and Arts. “I wanted to go somewhere when, after I graduate, the degree will mean something.”

The past two summers, Horton has played with two other high profile recruits from Texas on his Texas Blue Chips AAU team. Horton teamed with Chris Bosh – a power forward who will attend Georgia Tech – and Ike Diogu, a center at Arizona State. All three freshmen decided to recognize each other by wearing the No. 4 at their respective schools.

“(Chris) Webber is a great player, but I wore the number for the past few summers on my AAU team and my teammates and I all decided to wear it in college,” said Horton of the importance of the No. 4 jersey at Michigan.

In his senior year at Cedar Hill High School, Horton averaged 23 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game as a shooting guard. With numbers like those, Horton was among the most sought after recruits in the nation and was named to the McDonald’s All-America team.

While on the team featuring the nation’s top high school seniors, Horton scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in 18 minutes of play in the game on April 4.

“I think that he has the talent and the ability that, at some point, he is going to be a strong contributor for us,” Amaker said. “He has been a kid that is not afraid of working hard and has shown some toughness for a young player.”

Amaker is also hoping that Horton’s play-making ability will make the game easier for his teammates and create more open looks for other players on the court. Horton’s ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc, combined with his ability to break down defenses off the dribble, will create opportunities for teammates. In addition, Horton, known for his court awareness and basketball intelligence, is expected to make the transition to the point position easily.

As important as Horton’s performance will be, the contribution and guidance offered by the upperclassmen will be equally important. Especially at point guard, where Horton’s success depends largely on the performance of Michigan’s leading returning scorers, senior LaVell Blanchard and junior Bernard Robinson.

Since arriving in Ann Arbor during the summer to scrimmage with the team, Horton has been working closely with Amaker, a former point guard himself, to improve his play and sharpen his skills.

“He has really helped me out a lot since I have been here,” Horton said. “I will go down to the (basketball) office, and we will just talk about basketball and being a point guard. That is one of the reasons I came here. He knows the position, and he can help me be a better point guard.”

Amaker’s awareness of the pressure that a young point guard faces was another important draw for Horton when making his decision to come to Michigan. Amaker was the first major recruit to sign with Duke in 1983, when Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski recruited him to rebuild that program.

Horton hopes that like his new coach, he too can be the first piece in the rebuilding process and raise the expectations for the Michigan program.

“We are all trying to improve on that 11-18 record,” Horton said. “I hate saying that when people (in Texas) asked me how Michigan was last year. I always said that we were all right, but we are going to improve on that this year.”

Big Mac ‘n fries

Since the award’s inception, Michigan has had 17 McDonald’s All-America team members, four of which came during the 1991 Fab Five recruiting class.

Tim McCormick 1980

Eric Turner 1981

Richard Rellford 1982

Antoine Joubert 1983

Gary Grant 1984

Terry Mills 1986

Rumeal Robinson 1986

Sean Higgins 1987

Juwan Howard 1991

Jimmy King 1991

Jalen Rose 1991

Chris Webber 1991

Jerod Ward 1994

Louis Bullock 1995

Robert Traylor 1995

LaVell Blanchard 1999

Daniel Horton 2002

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