The maturity of the Michigan basketball team has manifested itself in a lot of ways in the early portion of this season, but nowhere has that been more evident than in their unselfishness. In the waning moments of the Wolverines 71-67 victory over Notre Dame Saturday, Daniel Horton demonstrated that very trait. With a play drawn up for him to take the game's final attempt, Horton drove to the top of the circle and drew two defenders. When the second Irish player committed to stopping him, Horton passed over the top of the help-defender to Dion Harris on the left baseline for the game-winning shot. Horton, who had a game high seven assists to go along with his 19 points, probably would have taken that shot earlier in his career. But those days are now gone.
"I have a lot trust that those guys can knock down shots," Horton said. "They're all great players in their own right. I feel like it would have been selfish of me to try to make a play in that situation. It was obvious that Dion was wide open. He made a big shot. Dion is capable is doing those things, and a couple of other guys on this team that are capable of knocking down shots in that situation as well."
Horton had tendency to shoot rather than distribute earned him the reputation of a scoring guard playing the one. He, however, never saw himself as selfish. He merely felt more comfortable with his own ability to perform in clutch situations. Gaining that comfort with his teammates has been a learning process.
"I've been a point guard since I was in middle school, so I've always known that [distributing to teammates] was part of my job," he said. "It's just that when you come to a new place and a new system with guys you've never played with, it takes time to develop that trust and that belief in your teammates. I think throughout the years, going through the things that we went through and practicing everyday, we've developed that trust in each other."
Michigan headman Tommy Amaker has spoken ad nauseam about how he had been trying to convince his floor general over the years to sacrifice more of his game for the betterment of the team. Thus far this year Horton has seen that the sacrifices his coach has asked him to make don't necessarily lead to a decrease in his numbers. The Texas native's performance through five games has warranted high praise from Amaker, and his stats are better than they ever were. The key component for Horton and for the team as a whole has been that aforementioned trust. "It's a critical word," Amaker said. "I believe that we have that within this group. I think that you can look at various moments and recognize you have it. I think these kids have bought into that philosophy of trusting one another…not just on the offensive end, but knowing someone is going to be there to help you on defense. That's a trust factor that you need. Daniel is playing as well as he has played since he has been here. It doesn't hurt that we're in the position we are in terms of wins and losses, which obviously makes the case even stronger for his play."
Horton is now averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 steals, while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from three. Those certainly look like All-Big Ten numbers. If he keeps it up, they definitely will be.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our feature on Senior PF, Graham Brown.