NORTH VANCOUVER — If you saw George Horn doing his thing in the paint this past March during the B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre, from those outstretched arms down to the solid base of that 6-foot-8 frame, his presence seemed to mimic that of a mighty oak tree.
And the way that Horn both rebounded and scored in leading North Vancouver’s upstart Handsworth Royals to a berth in the provincial Final Four is testament to the massive strides the senior has made with his on-court confidence.
Horn, who will be continuing his hoops career at the U Sports level this fall in London, Ont., with the OUA’s Western Mustangs, was named Friday by the BCHSBBA to its 2019-20 provincial senior boys Quad-A all-star team.
It’s yet another accolade for the son of a Canadian gold medal-winning Olympian who for the longest time, struggled to mesh his competitive fire with a physique that seemed tailor-made to play the game.
“It’s not that I had a big growth spurt or anything like that,” begins Horn, who is nonetheless almost a full half-foot taller than his dad Blair Horn, the Brentwood College and Washington Huskies grad who in 1984 was a member of the Canadian men’s eights team which rowed to gold at the Los Angeles Summer Games.
“It’s more that I learned how to use my body,” the senior continued. “I was so uncoordinated, just all over the place.”
Or as Randy Storey, his learned head coach with the Royals’ senior varsity remembers: “In the beginning he was literally tripping over himself.”
Horn has not grown a lot since reaching the height of 6-foot-8 in Grade 10, and is listed as such in the 2018 B.C. junior varsity championship program. It was there that he finally began to realize he had the package to dominate on the floor.
“Confidence was something I struggled with, but being able to step up in big moments made me realize that I could become a good player,” Horn adds.
What longtime Western head coach Brad Campbell likely discovered over the course of Horn’s recruitment was a player who now seems worlds away from that unsure athlete of just a few seasons ago.
Ask Storey, who has coached the iconic likes of ex-Lakers big man Robert Sacre, ex-Utah Utes’ guard Tyler Kepkay and the late Quinn Keast, about just how complete the change has become, and he speaks in near-reverential tones.
“He’s a winner,” begins Storey. “He says ‘OK, let’s sit down and talk about our goals for today.’ And the first thing he says is that it’s all about winning. How we are in this to win the game… and he conducts his life around that. It all filters down to everything he does off the court in terms of his organization, doing well as a student, his interactions with teammates.”
Quite literally by the time he arrived to the senior varsity in 2018-19 for his Grade 11 season, his aura had completely flipped.
“You don’t need to know more than that as a Grade 11 he was voted captain by his peers, that the seniors on the team considered him the alpha male in the room,” Storey says. “When you set the tone, and you have earned the respect of a group of guys, that’s the most important thing. And from a coaching perspective, he makes doing your job easier, but also challenging because he isn’t interested in putting up with a coach that isn’t striving to be a champion.”
And logically, Horn holds himself under the very same microscope.
With that switch turned on, and his will to play with physicality now seemingly ingrained, he has logged heavy hours in solitude over the past few months of pandemic working on the things that will make him more complete.
“I think I have a long ways to go, so, I am working on being more versatile, trying to stretch to the wing,” says Horn, who looks to be a player who can impact early as a hustle scorer in the paint, with the ability to alter shots with his wingspan at the other end of the floor.
How committed has he been?
It seems just as we were asking coaches around the province just what players needed to be during during the COVID-19 lockdown (read story here), Horn was a step ahead of that curve by self-motivating his way through his own workout schedule.
“To be honest, I am training harder than ever,” says Horn, who has already decided he will be doing a combined degree in kinesiology and business at Western. “Before the quarantine, I bought a squat rack and a weight bench, and with the hoop in the driveway, I am working out four hours a day.”
That should serve him well as he joins a Mustangs’ team coming off a loss to UBC in the third-fourth game at the recent U Sports’ Final 8 national championships.
“I think I am versatile enough to play wherever there is a spot for me, but the biggest thing to me is that I felt the most wanted there,” Horn continues.
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