Before entering the NBA after his junior year of college, Al Horford was a key member of one of the best teams in college basketball history. Horford was the starting PF for the Florida Gators and helped lead the school to back-to-back NCAA championships. When the Hawks visit the Rose Garden tonight, Horford will be going up against Greg Oden, who was part of the Ohio St. team that lost to Florida in the 2006-2007 championship game.
Although it has been a few years since Horford battled Oden for the NCAA championship, Horford still remembers how difficult and unique the match up with Oden was.
"The way we looked at it was doing it collectively as a team," Horford said of slowing down Oden. "He was and is such a big and powerful guy, so it took a team effort to be able to contain him. All of our bigs, I felt like we just really tried to stay solid on him. He really had a great game that game."
While much of the attention was focused on Kevin Durant and Oden heading into the 2007 NBA draft, Horford has been one of the most successful and productive guys from that draft class. Horford admits that he continues to keep tabs on the success that the rest of the draft class is having.
"Ya I follow them," Horford admitted. "It's kind of hard with Greg since he is all the way out here on the West. I make sure I keep up with all the guys in the class; my teammates from Florida, and Kevin, and Greg. Aside from Greg's injuries, it's looking like he is starting the year off right."
With the quick tempo that the Hawks play, Horford has been forced to play out of position for much of his time in Atlanta. In order to be productive at the center position, Horford knows that he must take advantage of his quickness and shooting ability to score.
"It's tough," Horford said of the Trail Blazers front court. "I think all I can do is stick to our game plan and really just take advantage of the opportunities when they come for me. When I get out on the wing in pick & roll, or get around the elbow area, those are spots that I feel comfortable at. So I will make sure I stay aggressive and take those shots."
Because of the long season and the great amount of travel, there are certainly nights where Horford struggles on the offensive end. However, he does a terrific job of maintaining focus and energy on the defensive end of the court no matter how he is playing on offense.
"I think it just has to do with staying focused and getting your rest off the court. You have to get rest and be prepared for the games. Also, being tuned in as far as what the team wants you to do defensively. I think if you are able to hang in there defensively in the NBA, I think you always have a chance to play. It's not about the offense. I feel like all the guys that make it to this level can score the ball. It's about being able to defend and staying on the floor with that."