After all, it's not every day that a legitimate NBA superstar makes his way to Guttenberg, much less the most popular player on the Nets. Not to mention, Van Horn, who was runner-up to Tim Duncan for NBA Rookie of the Year honors three years ago, was also a three-time collegiate All-American at the University of Utah. This is no slouch player.
Van Horn was appearing at the school to read to the students, as part of both the "Read Across America" tribute to Dr. Seuss and as part of the NBA's Team-Up for Reading and the Nets' "Reading Time-Out" program.
As a favor to Klein graduate and Guttenberg resident Claudia Inclan, who works in the Nets' community affairs department, Van Horn and the team's mascot, Sly, came to Klein School to read to the students, answer some questions and sign autographs.
Van Horn actually read two of Dr. Seuss' books to the youngsters, who got to see hysterical antics from the flamboyant mascot.
And unlike some professional athletes who never even bother with little children, Van Horn was as spectacular with the kids as he is on the hardwood.
"He was impressive not only to the students, but to the members of the staff and faculty as well," said Robert Tholen, the principal at Klein School. "It was a big event for all of us and we were looking forward to it for quite some time."
Claudia Inclan, who is the wife of Guttenberg Councilman Javier Inclan, set up an appearance last year with a Nets player, but the appearance was cancelled at the last minute due to a change in schedule. That's why Inclan pushed to have the most popular Net make the appearance in tiny Guttenberg this year.
And Van Horn obliged and made everyone feel like he was right at home.
"He really made us all feel so comfortable," Tholen said. "He never once lived off his star status. He was so down to earth and real. And he was so accommodating to the kids. He signed about 200 autographs and talked to all of the kids. He really was so humble and a pleasure to have come to our school."
Van Horn tries to get to as many schools as possible throughout the New Jersey area, even if it means getting up at 7:30 a.m. on the morning after a game. The Nets had defeated Vancouver 104-90 on Tuesday night, with Van Horn scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, one of his better performances since returning to action from a broken leg suffered in pre-season.
"It is a little bit of an early wake-up call, but I really enjoy doing this," Van Horn said. "I've been doing this for a while now, ever since I came to the Nets. I always enjoyed reading as a kid growing up and I wanted to be able to stress how important reading is, how important an education is, to the kids."
Added Van Horn, "When I was a kid growing up, I was always playing basketball, but I used basketball to get my education."
And in an era where most collegiate players do not finish their education, instead forgoing their pursuit of a college degree for the lure of NBA million-dollar salaries, Van Horn is a rarity. He remained at the University of Utah for four years and earned his degree.
"I always focused on my education first," Van Horn told the kids. "I knew that if I didn't do well in the classroom, I wouldn't be able to play basketball. Education was always a part of my life."
Van Horn said that he felt it was important to portray a positive educational image to the children in attendance. "These kids see professional athletes all the time, but they never see the emphasis we have on getting a good education," Van Horn said. "That should be the priority for every kid in a classroom, to get the most and best education. That's why I love coming to schools and talking with the kids."
"He's a wonderful role model," Tholen said. "And he truly feels like he has to be a role model. We all were thrilled to have him come to our school. We'll never forget it."
Questions from the kids
After reading the two Dr. Seuss books to rousing applause and hearty laughter, basketball player Keith Van Horn answered questions from the youngsters at Guttenberg's Anna L. Klein School.
"What's it like to play pro basketball?" one youngster asked.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Van Horn answered.
"How did you get through college?" a studious young lady asked.
"It took a lot of hard work," Van Horn said. "And a lot of reading."
"Do you like playing for the Nets?" one boy asked.
"It's very exciting and I love playing here," said Van Horn, who has moved his family to live in Franklin Lakes all year round.
"What does it feel like to lose games?" said a young man, obviously alluding to the Nets' poor 23-42 record. "It doesn't feel good," Van Horn said. "It doesn't feel good at all."