Horner Embracing Bigger Role

The elder statesman of a youthful Wolfpack team, Dennis Horner and his coaches are expecting a "big year" out of the senior forward.

Dennis Horner is the last of his kind. The only remaining player recruited by the previous regime, Horner is now the most experienced player on the roster. But with seniority comes expectations, and his coach isn't going to shy away from letting those expectations be known.

"I expect Dennis to have a big year," Sidney Lowe said. "I didn't say that about anyone else, but I do. I expect him to have a big year."

Horner's career has been up-and-down to this point. He came in as a true freshman on a team that was horribly undermanned, giving Horner ample opportunity to play. He took advantage, earning eight starts and playing nearly 18 minutes a game. He scored 14 points against Clemson, a career-high that still stands, and averaged 4.6 points a game.

But Horner went through something of a sophomore slump, averaging 3.2 points and under 15 minutes a game with no starts. But he rebounded back as a junior, putting together his best season with a scoring average of 6.4 points in almost 19 minutes a game.

He also improved his rebounded as a junior pulling down 2.8 boards a game. Horner might be asked to crash the boards even more as a senior, as the coaches may decide to play him more at power forward with Tracy Smith the only other returning post player.

"I'd rather play the three, but if they need me to play the four that's what I'll do," Horner said. "I'm more comfortable at, the three but if the four is where they need me then I can probably step out and get mismatches with guys who aren't able to stay in front of me or who don't have the quickness to guard me.

"In coach's offense the four is a lot of pick-and-pops, a lot of screen-and-pop on the outside. So it really doesn't matter... I can adjust to both."

Part of getting ready to play more at the four was maturing physically. Horner put on 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason but said that the addition hasn't effected his athleticism or agility.

"I really wanted to put on more muscle and lose some of the bad body fat I had. I got a lot stronger this summer," Horner said. "I also worked on my ball-handling. I think you'll see me [drive into the lane] more."

Horner is confident that the offense will run faster and more efficiently this year with each of the point guards having another year of experience on their belt. The senior forward says he believes each of the guards is capable of running the offense.

"They all have different styles of play. Farnold is up and down the floor, Javi can do a little bit of everything, and Julius is more of a set point guard. We all have trust in every single one of them so it's not like if one comes in we go, ‘Oh man he is coming in.'"

He's also trying to learn how to embrace a role of leader, something that he hasn't had to do much of in the past. With players like Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells and Brandon Costner on the roster, it wasn't necessary for Horner to be a leader. But now that he's one of two seniors, he knows he has to set an example.

"Showing the younger guys what they have to do for four years if they want to make it as a good player in the ACC," Horner said. "If we are down just never get down on yourself, never get down on the team. Always stay positive."

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