Jeff Hornacek had a 14-year NBA career spanning 1986 to 2000, which included an appearance in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game. He also helped John Stockton, Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz reach the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls in both 1997 and 1998. Hornacek, a 1986 graduate of Iowa State University and an All-Conference selection in 1986 in the Big 8 (the predecessor to today's Big XII), originally planned on attending Cornell.
The following excerpt explains Hornacek's unusual path involving Cornell. The passage comes from the April 2000 issue of Hoop Magazine, the official magazine of the NBA:
A Curious Landing at Iowa State
Although a successful high school player, Hornacek was not a recruiting prize coming out of Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Ill. Several small colleges were interested in him, but Hornacek believed he could be a successful Division I player. At the last minute, he decided to go to Cornell University, but he notified the Ivy League school too late of his intentions and was shut out of enrollment for the fall semester.
“I decided to go there for the second semester, so I sat out the first semester and worked,” Hornacek said. “Then it got down to December and Cornell said I was ‘unofficially accepted’ for the spring semester. And I said, ‘what does unofficially accepted mean?’”
Unsure of his status with Cornell, Hornacek didn’t want to sit out another semester and lose a full academic year. That’s when luck, or perhaps fate, stepped in.
“My dad was a high school coach in the Chicago area and talked to a lot of other coaches,” Hornacek related. “He talked to a guy named Gary Cook, who was an assistant at Iowa State at that time and used to coach in the Chicago area. They were at a Christmas tournament that Gary was scouting, and he told my dad they were having some problems with their guards, and maybe he could see about getting me into Iowa State. Instead of waiting and maybe having Cornell say you are not accepted, I decided to go to Iowa State and give it a shot to get a basketball scholarship. I just got in the car and went. I knew nothing about the school. I went there blindly.”