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Not Only Horford's Past, but Future Is a Big Mystery

February 25, 1986|PAUL DAUGHERTY | Dallas Times Herald

For the moment, Alfredo (Tito) Horford, college basketball's 7-1, 240-pound wandering problem child, has found peace, tranquility and a fixed address at the University of Miami.

That is a fact, one of the few to have escaped the never-never land recently inhabited by Horford and by those who have pursued him over the last several months.

As strange as Horford's tale might be, it seems no more skewed than those of the schools and coaches that, at one time or another, coveted him.

After five months of shuttling between all manner of schools and cities, of being suspended and dismissed and legislated out of two schools and apparently blackballed from untold others, Tito Horford is at Miami.

How and why Horford got there is anybody's guess. Or guesses. Depending on whom you believe, Horford is either a 20-year-old innocent who speaks broken English and who wants only to play basketball and go to school; a streetsmart product of the excesses of college athletic recruiting; all of the above or none of the above.

The Horford story is more about questions than answers. In this case, fact and fiction seem to converge. In this case, you believe what you want.

Said University of Houston faculty representative Michael Johnson: "It's the most bizarre story I've ever seen. When and if it all comes out, you'll be astounded."

Probably it will not all come out, at least not in definitive form. From the time that Horford was a senior at Marian Christian High School in Houston and being actively recruited by several major colleges, there always has been more than one story.

Back then, Horford gave Bob Gallagher, his high school coach, a list of 15 schools in which he was interested.

Gallagher says now that he told Horford that, as his coach, he would have the right to refuse interviews to college recruiters. Gallagher says that Horford agreed.

"Then, these coaches wouldn't call school, they'd call the house where Tito was staying," Gallagher recalls. "And Tito jawed with them. They called his home (in La Romana, Dominican Republic) and talked to his mother and brother. The whole process was circumvented, and Tito did it willingly."

On other occasions, Gallagher says that Horford would ask him to call certain schools on his behalf.

"I'd go ahead and make the call," says Gallagher, "and a week later the kid would say he had no desire to go there."

Gallagher does say that Horford seemed most interested in attending Houston, a notion that did not displease Gallagher, a close friend of Cougars Coach Guy Lewis.

Even now, Horford's lawyer, Pat Ellis, says, "I think Tito would tell you that all along, he wanted to go to the University of Houston."

But illegal recruiting visits to Horford's home, made last year by Houston assistant Donnie Schverak, cost Horford his eligibility at Houston, even after two appeals to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.

Last August, after Houston lost its first appeal, Horford began wandering.

His first stop was Louisiana State. Horford enrolled Aug. 28, registering for 14 hours of classes, two of which were non-credit.

Before Horford signed with LSU, Tigers Coach Dale Brown had him sign an affidavit, in the presence of Baton Rouge attorney Nathan Fisher. By signing, Horford pledged that he had not been offered illegal inducements to attend LSU from anyone at the school or anyone associated with LSU.

Nine weeks later, on Nov. 2, Brown kicked Horford off the team for missing a practice and a squad game.

Brown, who once had said that Horford would be "the most dominating center in college in one year," planned to suspend Horford for 11 games for missing practice. He dismissed him when Horford refused to attend the team scrimmage.

Indications are that Horford would have left LSU anyway. Despite playing well in scrimmages, Horford was unhappy at LSU.

He had written a letter of resignation to the school, dated Nov. 1. And shortly after he left Baton Rouge, Horford said, "I realize I made a mistake to go to Louisiana. I had family pressure put on me by my brother."

In response, Horford's half-brother, Tony Baltazar, said, "No way. Sometimes he talks like a crazy person."

Brown said that Horford told him he arrived at LSU "with 12 pesos." But during the Tigers' homecoming weekend, Horford reportedly spent two nights in a local hotel.

It was also reported that, after his dismissal from LSU, Horford paid for part of a plane ticket to Washington, D.C. with a $100 bill.

Previously, Horford had used a credit card in the name of Julio Castillo to buy a ticket to Washington. But he missed that plane; the later flight was more expensive.

Castillo, a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, declined to comment on his relationship with Horford, or if it was his credit card that Horford used.

Horford has been off limits to the media since holding a press conference when he arrived in Miami in the middle of last month.

And so it goes.

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