Elite point guard Jordan Horston takes passes over points any day
Never mind the name of the game. Jordan Horston has no real need to find the basket when she has the ball in her hands. Finding her teammates? Now that's what gives this elite point guard prospect from Ohio true joy.
"I like to get everyone involved," the 6-foot-1 Horston, who is a few months away from starting her junior year of high school at Columbus Africentric, said. "It's more fun if everyone is doing something to help the team. But when defenders start to back off of me, that's when I take my time to make my shots. That's when I realize, 'OK, this is my time to shoot the ball.'"
Horston, the No. 9 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the class of 2019, can do much more than distribute, even though that is clearly her favorite skill. She was one of five players to make the Columbus all-metro team this past season, leading Africentric in points (15.7), rebounds (7.0) and assists (6.5). She led her team to a 25-4 record, losing in the state semifinals.
But she still has her critics.
"Everyone rags on her about her jumper," said Africentric coach Will McKinney, who has known Horston since she was in sixth grade. "It's not that she can't shoot. I've seen the girl knock down big shot after big shot.
"It's just that sometimes she doesn't want to shoot."
Horston's basketball identity, it seems, is tied into being a pass-first point guard. But McKinney said he would like to see her utilize her versatility and give other positions a shot.
"She has moves," McKinney said. "She can fill it up on the wings if given the opportunity."
Colleges have taken notice. She has nine scholarship offers and said her favorites are, in no order, North Carolina, Ohio State, Maryland and Louisville. Horston said she expects to make her decision by next summer. Brace for a battle.
Horston and her family grew up rooting for their hometown team, Ohio State, especially in football. But North Carolina figures to have an advantage with assistant coach Sylvia Crawley, whose cousin, Malika, is Jordan's mother. In fact, Crawley and Malika are quite close, and North Carolina was the first school to offer Horston a scholarship.
You can bet that Crawley, a star on the Tar Heels team that won the 1994 national title, intends to close the deal on Horston. But does Horston feel any nerves about potentially having to say no to Crawley, who has long served as a mentor?
"No, and I don't think it would be too hard," said Horston who turns 16 on Sunday. "If North Carolina is best for me, of course I will go there. But if it's not, I think [Crawley] will understand. She's not the type of person to get mad."
Horston, who has a 3.5 GPA that she is determined to improve on, is interested in studying physical therapy in college. Her short-term goal, however, is to make the USA Basketball U16 team. Trials are May 25-29 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team will compete at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 championships June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When asked about the chance to represent Team USA, Horston made her feelings clear.
"Ooh, that's very important," she said. "I have always set goals, and making Team USA was one of them. I've been working out every day, just for this. Just being invited is an honor. Making the team would be a dream come true -- phenomenal."
Coached by her dad, Leigh, through sixth grade, Jordan joined Jay Bee Bethea's All Ohio AAU team when she entered seventh grade. Bethea said he knew right away that Horston would be good.
"She has the mentality of a Brett Favre," he said, "a gunslinger who has the confidence to squeeze a pass through a tight space."
Bethea has his own take on Horston's qualities as a shooter.
"It is so easy for her to get to the basket that she [often] doesn't need to shoot [from distance]," he said. "But she works on her jumper all the time. I also think sometimes she overpasses because she's such a good teammate. She doesn't want the perception of being selfish."
Bethea likes Horston's chances of making the U.S. team.
"There are not going to be too many 6-1, long, athletic point guards at her age," he said. "She will bring an added dimension defensively because she can get steals or grab a rebound and go coast-to-coast.
"And offensively, she is a mismatch. Because of her height, teams try to defend her with a taller player, but they can never stay in front of her. She's too quick."
And, oh, one more thing.
"I can shoot," Horston said. "And I love to prove people wrong."