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Horford's Long, Strange Trip Ends at Miami

January 23, 1986|PAUL DAUGHERTY | Dallas Times Herald

MIAMI — The long, strange trip of Tito Horford apparently has ended at the University of Miami, where the 7-1, 240-pound center enrolled Tuesday.

"We are delighted he decided to join us," Hurricanes basketball Coach Bill Foster said at a news conference at the school. "He just wants to be a student athlete and enjoy growing up."

Horford's enrollment at Miami evidently has ended months of speculation concerning his future. National Collegiate Athletic Association official Doug Johnson said Tuesday that Horford probably will be eligible to play for the Hurricanes no later than next January and possibly as early as next fall.

"They have a starting program," Horford said of Miami, which is fielding a basketball team this year for the first time since the 1970-71 season. "I just want to be part of the team."

For the past four months, it was questionable whether Horford would be part of any team.

As recently as last week, the NCAA denied a second appeal from the University of Houston, the school that originally signed Horford, then lost him when it was discovered the Cougars had recruited him improperly.

Horford was ruled ineligible to play at Houston. He left the school in August, after a first appeal to the NCAA's Eligibility Committee was denied.

In October, Horford enrolled at Louisiana State University. Subsequently, Horford left LSU after quitting -- or being dropped from -- the basketball team.

Last week, three other schools in which Horford had expressed interest -- UCLA, Kentucky and Louisville -- each publicly announced it was not interested in the Dominican Republic native, once considered to be one of the best prep players in the country.

"We don't need those kind of problems," Louisville Coach Denny Crum said.

At Tuesday's news conference, Miami officials declined to allow reporters to question Horford about the past several months or about anything but his enrollment at the school.

Foster also said Horford would not do any more interviews the rest of this semester.

Horford said he became interested in Miami after reading a recent article in Sports Illustrated about the school's revived basketball program.

According to Hurricanes Athletic Director Sam Jankovich, Horford expressed that interest to the NCAA; after receiving NCAA permission, Horford called Foster.

In turn, Jankovich met with NCAA representaives last week and was satisfied that signing Horford would not pose problems for the school.

"We feel very comfortable, very good about the process we followed," Jankovich said. "(The NCAA) said he has not been involved in any NCAA violations at this time."

Johnson, a member of the NCAA enforcement staff, said Horford was innocent of any wrongdoing at Houston but that an investigation into his recruitment at LSU was pending.

"There is a way he can play next fall," Johnson said. "That would be if it is determined LSU recruited the young man cleanly (or) if it can be demonstrated that (Horford) unknowingly violated" NCAA rules by signing with the Tigers.

"In any case, he probably would be eligible one year from now," Johnson said. "He would just have to meet regular transfer rules."

Even Foster said he was unsure of his newest player's eligibility.

"We know (Horford has) at least three years, with a possibility of all four. Hopefully, we'll know by September."

Meanwhile, Horford has taken a room in the athletic dormitory at Miami and registereed for courses.

When someone asked him what he would be studying, Horford replied, "English, I think."

Foster said Horford would major in business. He also said Horford would begin practicing with the Hurricanes Wednesday.

Horford said he was glad his ordeal had ended.

"I'm very glad everything is over," he said. "The last two months, I've been having a hard time."

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