Atlanta Hawks Player Preview: Al Horford
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Birthplace: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Born Date: 6/03/1986
True Position: Power Forward (4)
411: Al Horford is one of the more humble, laid back players there is in the NBA. Maybe it is because Al is comfortable around basketball as basketball has been a major part of his family since his youth. Al’s father, Tito Horford, became the first Dominican born player in the NBA in 1988 after being drafted in the second round by the Bucks. After two seasons in Milwaukee, Tito spent a majority of his career overseas before a brief stint with the Washington Bullets, who are now the Wizards. His uncle, Kelly Horford, played at Florida Atlantic University in the early 90′s and his brother Jon Horford is a junior at the University of Michigan. Outside of basketball life, Al is a man with good taste starting with his better half, Amelia Vega, 2003 Miss Universe from the Dominican Republic. His chic taste does not end there as he is also quite suave when it comes to fashion even traveling to Milan, Italy for Fashion Week in 2008. From there it trickles down to the variety of music Al is open to, from the likes of Bob Marley and Juan Luis Guerra to Jay-Z and Lil Wayne. Al can even be seen in a music video for Ciara’s song “Never Ever” which he debuted in 2009. As far as literal taste, as in food, Al, being from the islands, loves tropical fruits as well as white rice, black beans, beef and chicken cuisines along with sweet plantains. Al is not one to keep all the goods to himself as he is one of the most generous athletes in sports when it comes to giving back to communities all over the world whether it is through various basketball camps in the U.S. and Dominican Republic, to donating funds to aid Japan from the tsunami and earthquake, to supporting Hispanic youth groups by conducting Reading Timeouts and donating tickets to NBA games. In the interview with Al, below, he discusses his charity efforts, being married to Miss Universe and taking a leadership role with this Atlanta Hawks ball club.
Basketball Background: Al had a passion for basketball growing up watching his father play the sport. At the age of 14, Al and his family left the Dominican Republic on the way to Lansing, Michigan where he attended and played high school basketball at Grand Ledge High School. As a senior he averaged 21 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks while being named Michigan Class A Player of the Year. Al still holds Grand Ledge High School’s record for career points with 1,239 along with six other records.
Highly recruited out of high school, Al accepted an athletic scholarship from the University of Florida where he became an overachieving freshman helping the Gators win the 2005 SEC championship. As a sophomore he would top his freshman performance by increasing his scoring by 5 points while leading the team in rebounds with 7.7 per game to go along with 1.7 blocks per game. Once again, the Gators would win the SEC championship but this time the Al and the Gators would win University of Florida’s first ever NCAA basketball championship. After having ultimate success his sophomore year at Florida, Al along with his teammates decided to stay at Florida in attempt to win back-to-back NCAA basketball championships. Amazingly, Al had an even better year averaging 13.2 points, a team-high 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting over 60% from the field. That season, Al led the Gators to yet another SEC championship crown as he and his teammates also capitalized on their goals of winning another National Title. With no other collegiate goals to accomplish as far as basketball,
Al would forgo his senior year at Florida by entering the 2007 NBA Draft where he was taken 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks. Al hit the ground running by nearly averaging a double-double his rookie season and becoming the first Hawks rookie since Stacy Augmon in 1991-92 to be named to the All-Rookie First Team. He finished second in rookie of the year honors to Kevin Durant. That season, Al help quench a nine year playoff drought for the Hawks, taking that season’s NBA champion Celtics to seven games in the first round as an 8th seed. There was no sophomore jinx for Al as he led the Hawks in double-doubles with 39 on the way to helping the Hawks gain the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Over the next two seasons, Al would be voted to his first and second All-Star teams as a Center, becoming the first drafted Hawk to make the All-Star team since Kevin Willis. The 2011-2012 season turned out to be a disaster as Al missed the majority of the season with a torn left pectoral muscle. Al, being the hardworking professional he is, bounced back by having his best statistical season last year when he averaged a career high in both points and rebounds averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds leading the Hawks to its sixth consecutive playoff birth.
Expectations: Al is the leader of this Atlanta Hawks team and he is expected to accept the responsibility of being the leader and role model to a cast of young teammates both on and off the court. In order for the Hawks to maintain success this season Al must display relentless work ethic in learning coach Budenholzer’s scheme while at the same time producing in the system. Al is expected by many to be the Hawks best player on both ends of the floor. Even though Al will continue to play out of his natural position of power forward, due to needs at the center position, he is still skilled enough to average a double-double and a third All-Star appearance is not far fetched. Al can be relied upon on and off the court. Along with his excellence on the court, expect Al to display just as much if not more off the court as he continues with his philanthropic efforts. Al is a player easy to root for. As much dedication as he puts into this Atlanta Hawks franchise and the Atlanta Hawks fans he should expect as much in return.
You may follow Al on Twitter @Al_Horford. You may also follow myself, Notty, on Twitter @nottydred for more Atlanta Hawks updates, stats and sports entertainment from the Cadre. Thank you and stay blessed.