‘He wants the ball, and he wants to win’

Daniel Horton was in the wing of the basketball court with the ball in his hands as he moved to the middle of the lane and made a quick shot as he had done so many times before against a 2-3 zone defense.

But with that shot during a home game against Oldenburg, Horton, a senior at Trinity Lutheran, became the first and only athlete at the school to have 1,000 career points.

“It was exciting and everybody just starting cheering,” Horton said of the crowd. “They stopped the game after the first quarter, so it worked out that way and was really cool.”

Horton’s interest in basketball started long before setting records at Trinity.

“I think the first team I ever played on was when I was in the second grade,” he said after practice Monday evening the Bollinger Athletic Complex. “One of our coaches at Immanuel got us together and we started playing the third-graders, so that was a pretty rough start.”


Horton fell in love with basketball at a young age. While he played baseball into his middle-school years, he decided he would stick with just hoops.“I never really was that good at baseball, so I just gave basketball a shot,” he said. “That was at the height of learning the fundamentals of the game.”

Horton said he credited Immanuel Lutheran School basketball coach Greg Jones with teaching him so much about the sport early on.

When Horton came through Immanuel, Trinity Lutheran coach Aaron Rudzinski said he knew he had talent because the Warriors had a strong team — and Horton was a big piece of their success.

“I’d say he was quite a bit of their foundation, so we knew he would be good for us when he decided to come to Trinity,” Rudzinski said. “Through the years he has played numerous games, went through countless hours of practice and played club ball.”

Most recently he played club ball with a team from Eastern Pekin.


Horton made varsity his freshman year at Trinity, but said he didn’t see much action on the court.“I didn’t play very much, but my sophomore year is when I really started to play,” he said.

Rudzinski said Horton was used to help give players a break or work on a good match up. Horton got more minutes through the last part of the season his freshman year, which gave him experience to score and establish some confidence, Rudzinski said.

Horton said he can remember the first points he scored in his career, against Indianapolis Lutheran.

The forward continued to work hard and was a big part of the team his sophomore season, when the Cougars took the 2013-14 sectional title.

“Daniel was a really big part of that sectional-winning team that year,” Rudzinski said. “He played a ton that year.”

Throughout his career, Rudzinski said that Horton’s role on that team hasn’t changed as much, but his physical presence and approach to the game have changed for the better.

“When he came in here, he was tall and a little skinny and not as much strength for the varsity competition,” he said. “His strength has really increased throughout these years and he has become more aggressive while driving to the basket.”

Horton also had a strong junior season, Rudzinski said, and following the season is when the seed was planted in his mind that he could reach 1,000 career points.

“During our awards banquet after his junior year, I said that it was possible for him to score 1,000 points if he had a season like he had just had,” Rudzinski recalled.

Horton said that’s when it was something he really started to think about.

“I didn’t think at first about it much, but then we started crunching the numbers and I realized that it definitely was possible and was something I wanted to go after,” he said.

Horton said it was exciting to set the record for the school and that he is friends with the others that are on the list.

“I go to church with the guys that are second and third on the list, so it’s kind of fun to have set the record,” he said. “It’s a little friendly competition.”

During the course of his career, Horton has had a career-high 29 points against Shawe Memorial and a pair of 28-point games.

Rudzinski said that Horton is a special part of the team because of his size and athletic ability.

“He is unique in that he is 6-foot-5 and can play like a guard,” he said. “He’s really good in the open court, dribbling the ball, looking for teammates to pass to and he’s just really good on the basket.”

Rudzinski said he can also work in the post and work around players. He said that’s where most of his points have come from through the last four years.

The coach said the team draws plays around Horton.

The team often goes to Horton when Rudzinski suspects the other team has a mismatch on Horton. He said that because of Horton’s height, he will get a bigger, slower player to guard him, making him vulnerable against Horton’s strengths.

“He’s a work horse, he wants the ball and he wants to win,” Rudzinski said. “He’s determined and I think that’s what makes him a great player.”

Rudzinski said that despite owning the scoring record, Horton is a very unselfish player.

“He will pass up a shot if he has two or three defenders on him,” he said. “He wants to win first because that’s the number one goal for him, but he balances that out well knowing he needs to score for us to have a chance at winning games.”

For future plans, Horton has his options set on four schools including, Franklin College, Anderson, Hanover and Defiance in Ohio.