Think about it for a moment and it makes complete sense that Jason Horton grew up in New Orleans before moving to Dallas. After all, the Cedar Hill High senior point guard's game is as vivid as Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, rated the nation's No. 7 point guard and No. 31 overall recruit in the Class of 2004 by SchoolSports.com, is both explosive and surgical. So much so that Cedar Hill 17th-year head coach David Milson, who watched his University of Missouri-bound star average 16.8 points and 7.2 assists per game as a junior, sometimes wonders whether Horton consults a crystal ball during certain possessions.
"He sees things all the time that you can only wish other players would see," says Milson, who guided the Longhorns to a 30-3 record and the Class 5A regional finals last season. "He sees things I didn't even see from the bench."
Milson has seen Horton — on the break with the ball — survey the floor from well behind midcourt and hit a teammate cutting backdoor at full speed nearly 70 feet away. Simply electrifying. More so than anything you'll see on Bourbon Street.
According to Horton, you would not have seen anything like that watching him three years ago. His speed with the ball is natural. His vision is learned.
"I was always able to move well with the ball in my hands," says Horton, who will turn 18 on June 8. "When you're starting out, though, you tend to look down. It takes playing the game and getting comfortable and knowing in certain situations where teammates are going to be.
"I think my knowledge of the game is my strength," he continues. "What play to make at the right time: shoot, pass, run the offense. Playing the game adds maturity, and being around great players is also a big help."
One of the great players Horton has spent the most time around grew up under the same roof. His older brother, Daniel, is a 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard at the University of Michigan who posted averages of 15 points and 4.5 assists per game last season — numbers that earned him Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year honors. A 2002 McDonald's All-American and former SchoolSports cover boy, the elder Horton was a 2,000-point scorer at Cedar Hill and, more importantly, blazed a trail that has made Jason's journey less treacherous.
"I felt like I'd been through the recruiting process before, so I knew how to handle all the attention," says Horton, who signed with Missouri in November. "I really felt like I got a chance to pick a college by waiting for that right feeling. I felt like I didn't want to rush a decision. That way, you end up going somewhere you feel confident in."
Horton is still putting that hand-me-down wisdom from big brother to good use. Like what he can expect from the college game.
"He talks to me about the intensity," says Horton, who spent his freshman and sophomore seasons as a complementary player to Daniel before taking over as the Longhorns' go-to guy last year. "It's not just that there are better players. It's a different level of intensity all the time. It requires a lot of mental energy, he says, and it's a more physical game."
Of course, Daniel doesn't deserve all the credit for Jason's ongoing refinement as a player. Cedar Hill's standout possesses a tremendous work ethic all his own.
He has devoured every summer camp opportunity to come his way, attending the adidas ABCD Camp prior to his sophomore and senior seasons, the Nike Camp as a junior, and the NBA Players Association Camp and U.S. Olympic Development Festival this past summer.
"You have to keep working on your game and never be satisfied to stay motivated," Horton explains. "I just think about what level I want to go to. In a way, it's like this is my job every day. But I remember that this is something fun. I love doing it and I gotta do it."
And it's generally best when Horton does it his way. Coach Milson believes the improvisational nature of Horton's game is precisely what makes his game so great.
"We don't like him to be cautious," says Milson, noting that despite Horton's freewheeling style, the Longhorns only averaged 13 turnovers per game as a team last season. "We like him to play his game and take his chances."
In the final analysis, Horton's "chances" are much more of a well- calculated risk. An extremely well-calculated risk. And one made at breakneck speed.
"He knows what's going to happen, and you just don't coach that," says Milson. "I wish I could. I'd change some of my guys if I could. But Jason has court vision most guys couldn't dream of having."
Although he grew up in New Orleans, Horton spent his summers in Dallas throughout his preteen years, living with his dad, Daryl, a middle school teacher, and playing for Pilgrim Rest Baptist in the local church league. His mother, Andrea, is a surgical nurse who moved to Dallas from New Orleans in 2002 to be closer to her sons. Horton's parents are divorced.
The support and encouragement he has received from his parents has enabled Horton to reach his potential off the court as well. Sometimes, that encouragement came in the form of rules. A report card containing a C, for example, meant Horton couldn't play.
"I just looked at school just like I look at basketball," he says. "I just got competitive with grades, especially with my brother. It became a battle of who could bring home the best report card."
So the C-less report cards kept coming and Horton's game kept building. And kept getting faster.
"It's his speed that still impresses me most," says Milson. "He's so fast with the ball. Deceptively fast. I know that's kinda like an oxymoron, but it's true. You think you've got him and then he's behind you. So fast."