Keith Hornsby(EWE Baskets) Has Always Been An Offensive Threat But He Also Digs In On The Defensive End

Keith Hornsby is a 28 year old 193cm shooting guard from Mouth Of Wilson, Virginia that is playing his fifth professional season and first in Germany with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Last season the American played with Polski Cukier Torun (Poland-EBL) playing 19 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 75.7%. He played his first 3 professional seasons with the Texas Legends (D-League) playing 116 games and averaging 4.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.0apg in his first season, 10.1ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.6apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 78.3% in his second season and 12.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT-2 (49.1%), FT: 84.1% in his final season. He began his basketball career with Oak Hill Academy. He then split time with 2 schools with the University of North Carolina – Asheville (NCAA) and : Louisiana State University (NCAA) playing a total of 116 NCAA games. His best season with the: University of North Carolina – Asheville (NCAA) was his last season where he averaged: 15.0ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 37.9%, FT: 92.5%. He put up very consistent stats with Louisiana State University (NCAA) in both years averaging 13.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 78.4% and in his senior year averaging 13.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 41.5%, FT: 81.8%. He spoke to about his basketball career.

Keith thanks for talking to Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been despite the whole COVID-19 effecting the world?

I’m currently in Oldenburg, but I spent most of the last six months in the United States split between Virginia and Dallas, Texas. The summer was unpredictable, especially in the states. It was a struggle sometimes taking Covid precautions seriously in a place where many people weren’t following proper protocols, but my wife and I did a good job existing and being safe in that world before leaving for Germany.

How have you experienced the whole COVID-19 crisis in the States? How much did the last 6 months change your life and how much of a challenge was it finding the time and places to be bale to stay in shape and be able to work on your game?

When I started training again in early May, it was extremely difficult finding gyms that were open. I found myself working out outside much more than I ever have. At first it was frustrating, but eventually I found ways to be productive despite the limitations on open facilities. I can find a way to stay in shape, but it was tougher finding consistent basketball workouts. As the summer went on, I found a good group to workout with to keep things relatively fresh. The one thing I wasn’t able to do was play 5 on 5. No games were being played around me due to Covid, so I haven’t played 5v5 basketball since my last game in Poland. Luckily, I have a long preseason ahead to get my rhythm back.

How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?

Living through these past few months with Covid definitely made me appreciate certain freedoms from life before the virus. Little things like going out to dinner or venturing out to places without a mask. It made me appreciate those who made efforts to be responsible during the crisis. It made me frustrated with many people who failed to take the virus seriously, and you see how we’re still dealing with it in a way most countries aren’t.

Do all the questions about your famous father sometimes get on your nerves and how important was the fact that he was a very talented basketball player help you with your path as a basketball player from your youth until today?

I used to get semi frustrated in college, because the questions about him came in more frequently. I don’t get frustrated with questions about my dad at this point. I realize that it’s a unique thing to have a famous musician father as a basketball player, so it’s always an interesting topic to broach for the media. My dad loves basketball, and he’s more knowledgeable about the game than anyone would predict. A career in basketball on the sidelines is probably his road not taken, and I’m sure he would admit that. He’s done so much for me in the game. I won’t discredit myself, because I’ve put endless work in to give me new opportunities, but he instilled in me that mindset of work at an early age. Sometimes I like his fresh perspective on different issues I may be facing within the game.

Congrats on signing with the very ambitious EWE Baskets? What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Have you had any friends play here in the past? 

I’m excited to play with Oldenburg this season. I’ve been aware of the BBL ever since I left college, but it took me a little while to get here haha. Germany has such a great reputation as a country. I’m very happy that my wife and I can call the country home during these times of Covid. I feel like there’s almost no better place to be. I’ve had tons of friends play in Germany from the BBL level to Pro B. German basketball rarely gets a bad rap. I will see this for myself very soon.

They are very high on your abilities. What was the deciding factor where you knew that you wanted to play your second season in Europe in Germany?

They were one of the first clubs to recruit me nice Covid hit and my season was canceled. A lot of the basketball benefits of Oldenburg speaks for itself, but in these times of uncertainty, I felt like you could hardly get a more stable place than One of the top clubs in Germany. I was also surprised excited to play in Eurocup, but the club decided against participating. I was disappointed at first, but when I woke up and put things in perspective, I realized in these times that’s a small thing to lose. There will still be a lot of great and challenging basketball to be played in the BBL.

You had a very strong season stat wise in Poland last season. What are your goals this season as a player concerning your game? It won’t be easy to top those stats as your playing with more talented teammates and in a higher league?

I’m sure the experience as a whole will be very different than my experience in Toru. I aim to be as unselfish as possible regarding stats, because I realize I have a lot of talent surrounding me. If I had to choose one thing I will want to improve at, its decisions in the pick and roll. With such a great front court in Oldenburg, I think it’s a must I’m able to make good reads in PnR actions and feed the big guys when they’re open. I know it’s a cliche, but I’m really aiming to come in to Oldenburg and focus entirely on winning. With the roster we have, I feel if things work out we should be competing for a BBL championship. I will do my best to be as productive as possible and control what I can control, but if my stats aren’t what they were last year and we’re winning, I will be extremely happy.

Let’s talk about your game. EWE Baskets Oldenburg CEO Herman Schuller compares your game to the ex Wright State great Vaughn Duggins. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?

Vaughn Duggins. I’ve heard that before from them. I’m guessing that comparison is a good thing, so I’m happy with it. It’s hard for me to compare myself to anybody. I try to move without the ball like JJ Redick, but I feel my speed and athleticism makes that comparison a little fuzzy. I’m a scorer, so you can compare me to other scorers, but I can’t give you a specific comparison.

What stands out right away in your game is that you’re a fantastic shooter. Despite that, your good athleticism and good penetration skills on the court, what do you honestly feel like is your biggest asset on the court?

People always underestimate my speed and jumping ability. It’s always benefitted me to have that asset due to my shooting ability. If defenders close out too closely on my shot, I can get around them with my first step and create plays off the dribble. I’d say my pull up is my strongest offensive weapon. I try to get good elevation on the shot so it’s hard to block.

How much pride do you take on the defensive end? What is your biggest strength as a defensive player?

I’ve always been an offensive threat, but I truly try to dig in on the defensive end. I’ve always been a believer in the defense creates offense. Last season in Toru, we traded baskets too many times with people and it made it harder to defeat the intelligent teams (especially in BCL). I think my best attribute defensively is my strength. Bigger guys have a hard time posting me up directly. Sometimes I feel I’m too energetic. Almost to a fault.

On what area’s of your game are you working on most now as you prepare for your first season in Germany?

I mentioned above my decision making and productivity in the pick and roll action. I think I can improve my ball handling in the half court as well. I also want to improve my passing to the point where I consider it a true strength. Defensively, I want to work on positioning and fighting through screens. I got stuck on too many screens last year guarding the ball, so hopefully this year I can do a better job.

Last season your first overseas you played with Polski Cukier Torun (Poland-EBL) playing 19 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 75.7%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being overseas for the first time last season in Poland?

For the most part, I did pretty well for being my first year overseas, although I was more mature than the average euro rookie, which always helps. Due to my good play, I think the biggest wake up call was the extreme scouting and defensive efforts from some of the Polish players/teams last season against me. Their aggression, commitment, strength, and intensity would not be found in the G-League. I’d say that was somewhat of a wake up call.

You played your first 3 seasons in the G League with the Texas Legends improving your scoring stats each season. Some guys leave after 1-2 seasons to go overseas. How confident were you that you could make the NBA in your third season and do you sometimes wonder what might have happened had you returned for a 4th season?

I felt kind of trapped in the G League. I did not want to return for my third season, but due to almost zero European interest, I didn’t have much of a choice and appreciated the Texas Legends faith in me. The talent in the G League is top notch, so every year you compete with new, great players for playing time. During my third season while leading the G League in 3pt%, I figured I had a shot. After I never received that call during that stretch, I was over it. It was time to move on to a different basketball situation.

In your rookie season you were with the Dallas Mavericks and played 5 pre season games. What kind of experience was it being teammates with Dirk Nowitzki? Do you have a special Nowitzki story that you won’t forget?

That was an unbelievable couple of months with the Mavs. It was a dream come true to put on an NBA uniform with your name on the back of it. The only downside is that it was my first pro experience, so it gave me an unrealistic idea of how difficult the G League could be in the oncoming months. Sharing a locker room with Dirk Nowitzki was surreal. What a legend! He’d always made fun of me for being too muscular up top. He’d call me ‘upper body’ and tell me to do some leg work and stop doing bicep curls. Good guy!

That first season you were teammates with some real veterans in Texas with Dejuan Blair, Ben Gordon, and Courtney Fells. What was it like being with guys like this on a regular basis and did you take the time to pick their brains about the business?

I learned a ton that first year. It was the first time in my career I was competing against legit grown men and guys of all ages. I realized they had a different comfort within the game. Something I wasn’t close to obtaining at that point. Playing with Ben Gordon was amazing other than the fact he came in and took most of my minutes haha. That first year was incredibly eye opening. The gave me stories about overseas. A lot of them were horror stories haha because those are more interesting. I didn’t know what to think.

What is the best example that you can remember in your 3 years in the G-League where you can honestly say the NBA is a business first before a players feelings?

My first year Pierre Jackson was my PG. during November and December he was absolutely killing on the court. I’d never seen someone play so amazing. At times it was truly mind boggling. He thankfully got a call up to the Mavs in January and was playing well for a few games. In his first start, he had nine points in the first quarter before hurting his hamstring. They waived him later that night and he was back with us almost immediately. I couldn’t believe it. Then the Mavs signed Yogi Ferrell, and he took off on that whole Yogimania stretch. Pierre was with us for the rest of the season after that, and I could tell it took a slight mental toll on him. The guy could not have played better in many regards.

You played at the very well known Oak Hill Academy that has graduated countless NBA players like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. How do you feel did this experience help your game most in young years?

It made me a man to some degree. I was a late bloomer in so many ways. Playing with the type of competition you see at Oak Hill every day helped my confidence incredibly.

You then began your NCAA career at University of North Carolina – Asheville and made a huge jump from your freshman season averaging 4.0ppg, 1.9rpg to 15.0ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 37.9%, FT: 92.5% as a sophomore. You averaged 21 more minutes in your second season. Do you sometimes wonder how your career may have gone had you remained there?

Some people are surprised when I say this, but that first year at Asheville was one of the most important years of my career. I learned so much that season thanks to the seasoned seniors who were ahead of me in the rotation. My sophomore year, I came in a different player, and I was ready to contribute at a major level. If I had stayed at Asheville, I would’ve had a great career. A lot of people initially thought it was stupid of me to transfer from there to a major program, because I was giving up a great situation for myself for the unpredictability of the high majors. The one thing that was alarming for me at Asheville was how little respect their star players got on a professional level. My freshman year I was behind two all conference senior guards who I thought were amazing players, but they never got much of a shot at the next level. I figured if I wanted to play professionally, I would have to try my luck at success at a bigger program , and that’s exactly what I did.

How do you feel did your basketball experience at North Carolina-Ashviille help your game most as you then went on to Louisiana State?

Asheville gave me the opportunity to play a lot my sophomore season and naturally improve. Asheville also plays at least five high major schools every season, which was always exciting along with being somewhat of a trial against the big boys. I had some big time games, especially against Ohio State and NC State. It mainly came down to getting the opportunity to play. It was a huge confidence booster realizing I could have success at the division one level my sophomore year, and Asheville gave me that opportunity.

You had many great games at LSU, but do you still have memories form the tough 71-69 loss to powerhouse Kentucky where you steered home 17 points? That team had so many future great NBA players like Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein, the Harrison brothers, Tyler Ulis, etc. What player from Kentucky stood out the most?

Oh wow…. that game! That was arguably the most exciting game of my life. What a team that Kentucky group had. Most LSU people give me fun loving crap about missing the game winner at the end, but I’ll never forget the positives from that game including the unrelentingly rowdy crowd of purple and gold. The player who stood out most to me was Devin Booker. He played beyond his years. He was so calm, collected, and efficient with everything he did. He killed us that game. He hit several shots in my face where I figured I defended him extremely well. I was bummed I missed the tough game winning attempt, but I walked away from that game proud of myself and with a little disbelief at how far I’d come.

How easy was it playing with top NBA player Ben Simmons? Is there a play that has been cemented in your mind with him over the years?

Playing with Ben Simmons was quite the experience. He is the most naturally gifted athlete I’ve ever encountered. He had such raw basketball ability, but it was clear from the start of his only season that his game would be better fitted for the NBA. His passing is the most impressive to me, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. One game against Mississippi State he threw me a full court chest pass like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was like a bullet. It was so crisp. I caught it in motion with awe as I realized what had just happened. No normal player can do stuff like that.

How did head coach Will Wade groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

I never played for Coach Wade. I played for Johnny Jones, who is now coaching at Texas Southern University. I think Wade is a damn good coach, even if he’s a bit potentially controversial during this time period.

Who won a one on one in practice you or Antonio Blakeney back at LSU?

Great question. Antonio Blakeney is a skilled offensive player. That was a good match up. Tone is known for hitting tough shots, but how can I say I wouldn’t win. I was the senior after all. 

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that went to the NBA?

I may have to give Alex Caruso this award. His teams at Texas A&M were always hard to beat! He’s just a tough player, and he was always an annoying defender and pesky presence each time we matched up. He talked a fair amount of trash too. I’m not surprised he’s carved out a role for himself in the league with his size and PG abilities.

Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time? 

I’ll list these as best teammates and not necessarily most skillful. Josh Gray (LSU) Chris Wright (Toru) Jameel Warney (Legends) JJ Avila (Legends) Aaron Cel (Toru)

Please construct your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?

Nice! LeBron James – George Washington Michael Jordan – Thomas Jefferson JJ Redick – Teddy Roosevelt Steph Curry – Abe Lincoln

What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?

Although everybody’s opinion seemed to shift towards MJ during the airing of the Last Dance, I’m still going to go with Lebron James. It’ll forever be a difficult debate, but I just think what LeBron has done on and off the court is unrivaled.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Toy Story 1 with my wife. We’re going to watch the whole series of movies, because none of us have seen 3 or 4! We’ve been in a Pixar craze lately. These movies have been giving us positive vibes in times of unrest in the USA.

Thanks Keith for the chat.

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