Former Utah Jazz player Jeff Hornacek spoke to a packed TSC ballroom last night about helping others become better at what they do while climbing to success in his own life. Hornacek said he never thought he would play basketball, let alone become an NBA star. His was a story of an underdog finding triumph in the face of adversity. “I was determined to try to prove people wrong,” he said. “They didn’t think that I could – I was too small, so I always had it in the back of my mind that I’m determined, that I can show them this.” USU freshman Evan Folland was in attendance at the event and said that he grew up watching Hornacek play basketball. He said he always looked up to Hornacek and was interested to hear his advice to the students. “He’s one of the greatest … he’s clutch. He didn’t go around talking like he was a big something. He just did what he did and was humble and, you know, got it done.” Hornacek said he feels hard work, setting goals, seizing opportunities and a little bit of luck are elements of how he got where he is now. “I’m sure a lot of you are hitting that stage in your lives where youíre starting to think about a career path and how you’re going to be successful at it,” Hornacek said, “I always set little goals and then step it up a little bit.” Growing up as the son of a baseball and basketball coach in the suburbs of Chicago, Hornacek said he always thought he would be a baseball player. His friends were all hockey and baseball players and rarely ever played basketball. “I’m not one of those guys that came through my whole life going, ‘Okay that guy’s definitely going to make it, he’s going to play professional sports,” Hornacek said. Because his dad taught him how to dribble and shoot a basketball, Hornacek said when he was old enough to play in middle school, opportunities began to surface for him to excel at sports. In high school, the kids were pretty big. He said he was just happy to make the team and eventually he got a lucky break and started scoring a lot of points and getting assists. One of the coaches from Iowa State asked my dad, “What’s Jeff doing?” Hornacek said. He was originally planning to go to Cornell University, an Ivy League school in New York. He said he took the risk of waiting for a scholarship at Iowa State and it paid off. Hornacek said his family was not wealthy, which helped motivate his decision. Hornacek walked on at Iowa State and when another player failed out, a scholarship became available. He said a little luck was involved. “I was trying to be realistic and said, ‘I’m not going to make it,” Hornacek said. “I tried to study as hard as I could, believe it or not I was an accounting major. I had a backup plan there, that’s really what I thought I’d end up doing.” He said as he was waiting to hear back from the NBA he had two jobs lined up with two different Big 8 accounting firms. Shortly after, Hornacek was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1986. I felt that when we were playing, that whole Dream Team era, those guys, they weren’t playing for the money, they were playing for the pride of winning the championship, Hornacek said. Then the money came along with it. But that was their first objective was to win that championship.
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