Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘He’s got a Tasmanian devil kind of spirit’: What Texas basketball is adding in UCF grad transfer Ithiel Horton

Courtesy of Derek Warden of the Black and Gold Barrenet

Texas basketball turned some heads recently with the addition of University of Central Florida wing Ithiel Horton, as first reported by Joe Tipton of On3. Following a flurry of transfers at the start of May to reshape the roster, moves this late in the cycle are unheard of, making Horton’s decision one of note. 

Horton, who was thrust into a starting role in his lone season for the Golden Knights, will be suiting up for his fourth university and presumably hopes to showcase his abilities as a scorer in a manner that will be more conducive to a real NBA opportunity. The shooting guard only entered the transfer portal in late June after withdrawing from the 2023 NBA Draft in the early entry period, but was expected to be UCF’s most productive player with five players departing from the roster, including top-10 pick Taylor Hendricks.

Head coach Rodney Terry and his staff, however, have made it evident that they will leave no stone unturned in constructing the best roster possible, taking a swing on the well-traveled grad student as well as landing an arguably bigger surprise in forward Devon Pryor and guard Chris Johnson. Pryor was previously committed to LSU for the 2024 class but will reclassify for this year, and Johnson was flipped from Kansas as a four-star commit in this year’s class. Horton, who will spend his final year of eligibility on the Forty Acres, figures to have the most instant impact of the trio.

Much like the addition of Oral Roberts’ guard Max Abmas, Horton’s role will likely scale down considerably as he fits into a more complete roster. However, it’s not hard to watch Horton’s play at Central Florida and see it translating out of the gate. 

Kyle Nash, a writer and podcaster at SB Nation’s Black and Golden Banneret and The 3 Point Conversion, can see it, too.

“He’s one of the guys that may not necessarily start momentum, but he’s certainly someone that can keep it going when it looks like it’s going to get lost,” Nash said. “When a team goes on a run and it looks like they’re starting to run out of steam, he seems to find that the spark to keep it going.”

While Texas’ starting lineup and eventual rotation is a bit of a mystery at this moment, it’s easy to slot in three surefire starters in rising junior Tyrese Hunter and the aforementioned Abmas in the backcourt alongside fifth-year senior Dylan Disu. While Terry could opt to start Horton given his experience, it would mean going very small.

Most likely, Horton will function as a key bench piece for the Longhorns, and could slide into the vacancy left by reigning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Sir’Jabari Rice, whose production off the bench was the difference in many games for Texas last season. Horton brings shades of Rice’s game in his 3-point shooting, tough shotmaking and ability to heat up in a hurry. 

“If he’s coming off the bench like that he can inject fresh legs and probably cause some turnovers or get some quick buckets that way, that’s a win-win,” Nash said. “If you have a team that’s not so sick in the middle, he can slash to the basket with that fresh energy. There’s all sorts of stuff that his energy makes compelling.”

Nash mentioned that Horton can be streaky, comparing him to former Knicks guard John Starks. His efficiency took a dip in 2022-23, and his numbers scoring near the basket have never been promising. However, Horton’s ability to flourish off the ball as a shooter with a quick release and pull up from 30 feet, similar to Abmas, should make him a pivotal piece for a team losing over 50 combined points per game in their departures.

As was the case last year, Texas’ success will hinge on contributions from the experienced players rather than standout freshmen – Disu, Abmas, Brock Cunningham, even Tyrese Hunter in that mold – and Horton will fit right in as a guy who’s seen the highs and the lows in three different programs. While he’ll have good nights and bad nights, no doubt, he’ll bring a tenacity that no other player on the roster at the moment seems to boast.

“He’s got a Tasmanian devil kind of spirit to his game and what he does,” Nash said. “He’s got a motor that puts him all over the floor whenever he’s out there, he’s constantly moving, he’s constantly chasing.”

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