PG Horton ready for next step

Tommy Amaker was the point guard that Duke needed to get back to national prominence. Daniel Horton is hoping that he can do the same thing for the Wolverines.

Mike Gotfredson was a great role model, a hard-nosed kid that did nothing but bust his butt and overachieve. God love him, but he was the worst starting point guard Ann Arbor has seen in years.

 

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, a former star point man in his own right, knew that the position needed an upgrade at that position if he was going to build his program. As a young defensive whiz, Amaker helped put Duke basketball on the map.

Michigan freshman Daniel Horton hopes to follow in the steps of his new coach.

"He has helped me out a lot," Horton said. "I can go down to his office and talk basketball for 15, 20 minutes a day and learn so much. We talk about the game in general and about being a point guard. He has helped me a lot and he is a big reason of why I came to Michigan."

 

But the coach's little shadow isn't going to step into the Michigan family as just a quiet and humble newbie. The McDonald's All-American has already made a statement by choosing to wear the No. 4 jersey made famous by Chris Webber.

In addition to confidence, Horton brings size, speed and a dynamic shooting touch back to the Wolverines' backcourt, where he is expected to step in immediately and contribute this season. 

 

"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.

 

Amaker has been impressed the work ethic and the toughness that Horton has shown on and off the court since he arrived on campus this summer. In fact, Amaker thinks that taking a summer full of classes has helped all of his recruits to adjust to college basketball and life in Ann Arbor.

 

"I think that is the most important summer for an incoming kid," Amaker said. "So for the last two or three years that rule has been in place, and I think that it is a great rule. We are always talking about things that we don't like, and I think that rule is a great one."

 

Horton has emphasized that his early time with the Wolverines has helped him to focus on the tasks ahead while carving out his own niche in the lockerroom.

 

"I think the guys have made it really easy to fit into this team," Horton said. "The first day I got here the older guys were right there helping us get settled and more adjusted to college life. It was pretty easy for me to fit into this team."

 

Horton's team is challenging itself to improve on last season's losing record, and the blue-chipper is confident that individual betterment and team success will go hand-in-hand.

 

 "I would like to improve on everything," Horton said. "I really have not thought about what I would like to accomplish individually. I want to do what is best for the team first. We had an 11-18 record last year and I just want to do my best to help the team improve on that record this year."

 

As a senior last season, Horton averaged 23 points, five rebounds and four assists per contest. Those numbers have led many Michigan fans to pencil him into the starting lineup before he ever set foot on campus.

 

All this hype isn't making the Wolverines' veteran point man, feel any taller. Avery Queen, who is listed as 5-foot-7, has been logging the majority of the minutes at the point spot since the departure of Jamal Crawford to the NBA in 2000. Amaker has been preparing Queen a reduced role.

 

In a meeting at the end of last season, Amaker told Queen: "you are a very important component of this team. You have experience, you are one of the most competitive players we have on the ball club. You are tough and we need you. We also need you to understand that you played 35 minutes a game as a freshman, 31 minutes as a sophomore and we are not sure that is going to be the same minute distribution. It may be, but there is no guarantee and in all likelihood that may not be the case."

 

Amaker said the message was well received, and he still expects both Queen and Horton to contribute to his first winning season with the Maize and Blue.

 


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