UNC-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound junior guard, will have two years of eligibility remaining for the Tigers beginning next season. Until then the Williamsburg, Va., native, former Oak Hill Academy hoopster and son of a world-famous musician will have to settle for being strictly a practice player.
So far, through two and a half weeks of preseason workouts, Hornsby is pleased with his progress and thinks the team is finding its stride as well.
"I feel I've been playing very well in practice. Of course it's a step up," acknowledged Hornsby. "With that being said, I think I'm also finding out things I really need to work on, which is nice because I have this year to figure those things out and get better in those areas. It's been great getting in with the team and seeing us improve, and we really have already through these couple of weeks we've been practicing."
If there is any frustration for Hornsby, it's rooted in the fact that he can't participate in games this season and sits out the occasional practice drill for the same reason. As Hornsby explained, new teammate John Odo can relate. In fact LSU's Nigerian-born power forward, who sat out last spring after transferring in from junior college, recently gave Hornsby some support to that end, even if all Hornsby took away from the moment was laughter because of the thick accent.
"I try to communicate with him," Hornsby said with a big grin. "One time I remember in practice I had to sit out in a drill because coach wanted to see the players that are eligible to play this year. It was the first time I had been through that. I was just a little frustrated, and you could tell.
"He [Odo] just came over to me, patted me on the shoulder and was like, ‘Hey, it will be oh-kay,'" Hornsby said, imitating the big man with as low and guttural of a sound as his throat can make, and drawing laughs from the entire room.
On the court there's little frustration for Hornsby, who as a sophomore a season ago at UNC-Asheville averaged 15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, all while shooting an uncanny 92.5% from the charity stripe. His offensive game is equal parts outside shooter and slasher.
It's the defensive end where Hornsby indicated he'll focus most of his efforts in this season of preparation. "We do a lot of defensive stuff, and I've definitely figured out my defensive flaws," explained Hornsby. "So defensive awareness and positioning (are big takeaways from practice so far). I've had people that have taught me all that, so I'm not bad at it, but I could definitely improve on it."
Hornsby didn't hesitate when asked if Johnny Jones' staff emphasizes defense more than at any of his previous stops.
"Certainly, without a doubt. I understand Coach Jones, he demands the most effort on defense, as expected," continued Hornsby. "Because all I can do is practice here, that's all we've had so far. He definitely puts the most emphasis on defense in practice that I've ever experienced."
There is one facet offensively Hornsby added he plans to fine-tune. "I guess I'd say ball security, just being more comfortable with my handle under a lot of pressure because there's not really a moment where they're not always in your face," he explained. "That's how it should be, but I could develop more comfort with the ball, I guess."
Making the jump from Asheville to Baton Rouge was definitely an attempt to improve Hornsby's shot at professional ball, something the player said "goes without saying" for him. However, as Hornsby relayed, he also aims to take the next step toward what he hopes will be his career after basketball.
"Sportscaster," Hornsby responded when asked what he'd eventually like to do. "That was my initial thing. I was actually a drama minor (at UNC-Asheville), but I had to ditch that when I came here, unfortunately. It was too much of a distraction. Yeah, I could say, though, that I'd love to be on-camera."
He'll have to make it through this semester first with a 3.0 GPA or above for admittance into the Manship School of Mass Communication. Assuming he achieves that, Keith Hornsby will be one step closer to speaking to the masses. That's something his Grammy-award winning father, Bruce, who the author of this piece could only make it 763 words without mentioning by name, has done poetically on a regular basis for decades.
As you'd imagine, the son is quite familiar with the father's fame, detailing that he's long been known as the son of a legend.
"It's getting better. I'm definitely not there yet. It used to be terrible: Keith Hornsby, son of Bruce Hornsby. That was everywhere," Hornsby recalled. "Now there have been a few times where he hasn't been mentioned in one of my articles or something, which has been nice. It's by no means gone."
Keith went on to say that he and his father do share some overlap in their respective areas of expertise.
"He can play basketball better than I can play instruments," the younger Hornsby leveled. "He has a stroke, and he's definitely still athletic. He'll go out and work me out and stuff, so he's definitely a basketball guy. I play a little bit of guitar, but nothing to speak of really."
But the son is very quick to recognize his father's influence on him, namely the lesson that anything worth attaining only comes through unwavering commitment.
"He more helped me than pushed me," Keith said of Bruce getting him into basketball as a child. "He wasn't really that type of guy, but he basically tried to teach me how he got to where he is, and that's through extreme dedication. He tried to instill that in me with my work ethic. That's definitely one thing that's gotten me here – him always being there and giving me the good advice. So he pushed me but never in a forceful way. He's been a great mentor in that respect."
Whether or not all of Keith's teammates have a full understanding or appreciation yet of who his father is remains another thing entirely. The LSU transfer could only laugh when asked if the other Tiger players knew his father actually created a song that rapper Tupac eventually sampled.
"My dad was actually here this past weekend, and they got to meet him," said Keith. "Well, some of them met him when I got here for the first time, but they asked him some funny questions about that for sure."
Before too long, expect his teammates to bone up on the finer points of Bruce Hornsby and the Range. In the meantime, LSU fans would do well to get to know Keith, someone who to them will soon be much less important as Bruce's son than a potential double-digit scorer for the Tigers.
What's your outlook on Keith Hornsby's future at LSU?