Catching Up With: Kantrail Horton
AMES, Iowa- There is no dispute that Kantrail Horton was a tough guy. With a body built more like a professional wrestler than a basketball player, the burly guard from Covington, Ga., was the cornerstone for Iowa State’s unprecedented success in men’s basketball from 2000-2001.
In his two seasons as a Cyclone after a couple of years in junior college, Horton demonstrated tenacity on the defensive end and his ability to hit the big shot paved way for ISU to win back-to-back Big 12 titles.
“I’ve always been that type of player,” Horton said. “If one guy is the best, I would love to play against him and try to stop him. It was basically what my team needed, I guess. I gave whatever the team needed me to do.”
Even more impressive was Horton’s two-year Hilton Coliseum record as a starter. He never lost. Pairing up with All-American Jamaal Tinsley, the guard tandem was a perfect 34-0 during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, helping ISU achieve a school-record 39-game homecourt winning streak.
Horton, who graduated from ISU in 2001, played professionally in Europe and New Zealand for five years after graduation before finally deciding to hang up the sneakers. He now lives in his native state of Georgia and has not given up on his dreams of coaching the sport he loves.
“I played five seasons overseas,” Horton said. “I actually just got back from New Zealand about a month ago. Right now I am actually looking to find a different career. Because I’ve been traveling and playing overseas, I am at the point where I want a change. I’ve thought about coaching, probably somewhere in the near future.”
His brief time in Ames is still some of the happiest times in Horton’s life.
“It was a wonderful time,” Horton fondly remembers. “Just being up there and playing basketball and winning as we did. It was just a wonderful experience. I kind of sit back now and think about those days. It was by far the best time I ever had playing basketball.”
It is hard for Horton to pinpoint his greatest moments as a Cyclone. There were just a few losses. He was 57-11 as a starter. Making the NCAA Elite Eight and winning ISU’s first conference basketball crown since 1945 in 2000 surely rank up there. Even though the season ended in a heartbreaking, controversial showdown with eventual national champion Michigan State in the NCAA Regional finals, Horton reflects fondly on the Cyclones’ dream season.
“I have had the opportunity to watch the game (Iowa State-Michigan State) a couple of times,” Horton said. “It is part of my history and it’s what we went through at the time. I mean, it was wonderful, the whole experience was wonderful. I can’t look back on it and regret it. I felt like we had control of the game until the very end. Then the double-foul on Paul Shirley came. I just didn’t know what to think after that.”
It is almost impossible to find any former college basketball player who can claim they never lost a game in Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse. Horton is one of the few, winning both times he competed in Lawrence. In his senior season (2001), it was Horton’s game-high 19 points and 4-of-4 effort from 3-point range that propelled the Cyclones to a 79-77 victory, its second consecutive triumph at Kansas.
“Beating Kansas twice in Lawrence is definitely something I will never forget,” Horton said. “Just with all of the history in that place and to say we went down there twice and won is an incredible feeling.”
Many Cyclone fans remember Horton’s miracle shot as the turning point in that game. With the shot clock running down in a tight second half, Horton buried a 30-foot 3-point bomb from the Kansas logo which deflated the rabid crowd.
“I just kind of raised up and didn’t even worry about where I was at because I knew I had to shoot it,” Horton said. “It was big.”
The watermark victory over the fifth-ranked Jayhawks put ISU in the driver’s seat for its second consecutive Big 12 title and securely cemented Horton’s place in Cyclone history, who was named second-team all-Big 12 at season’s end.
“It was wonderful (winning back-to-back titles),” Horton said. “We had a great duo of freshmen in Jake Sullivan and Shane Power. They just bought into the system along with myself and Jamaal (Tinsley). We had some tremendous offensive players in Martin (Rancik) and Paul (Shirley) and we all kind of molded and we put it together.”
The bond formed from Horton’s teammates on the 2000 and 2001 Big 12 championship squads is a tough one to break.
“I just saw Jamaal (Tinsley) about a couple of weeks ago,” Horton said. “I chat with Stevie (Johnson) and Mike (Nurse) on the internet. I’ve heard from Marcus (Fizer) a couple of times and I talk with Paul (Shirley) quite a bit. We are all like tied together. That’s what made our team great. We had great chemistry.”
Kantrail Horton's Iowa State Statistics
Yr. GP-GS FG-FGA Pct. 3FG-FGA Pct. FT-FTA Pct. RB Avg. A TO BS ST PTS Avg.
99-00 35-35 91-239 .381 53-144 .368 71-91 .780 145 4.1 90 73 3 30 306 8.7
00-01 31-31 102-250 .408 53-133 .398 75-88 .852 168 5.4 97 71 12 21 332 10.7
Totals 66-66 193-489 .394 106-277 .382 146-179 .815 313 4.7 187 144 15 51 638 9.6