EXCLUSIVE: D.J. Horne Speaks On Spurs' Summer League (2024)

Eighty-five days after falling short to now-Memphis Grizzlies rookie Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers in the Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, NC State guard D.J. Horne touched down in San Antonio.

Just a few days prior, the 23-year-old had inked a Summer League contract with the San Antonio Spurs, meaning the next time he would take the court competitively, he'd be trading in his Wolfpack Red threads for a simpler version of the Spurs' iconic Silver & Black ones.

Horne was going to play in Sacramento for the Kings' annual California Classic not much later after he arrived in San Antonio, and he'd have to once again board a plane to do so. This came after traveling to multiple locations throughout the NCAA Tourney and then the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament following.

Oh, and all while working out for nine NBA teams trying to secure a contract for Summer League after going undrafted in the 2024 NBA Draft.

"It's been a hectic past couple of months," Horne admitted in an interview with Spurs On SI.

EXCLUSIVE: D.J. Horne Speaks On Spurs' Summer League (1)

READ MORE: San Antonio '2nd Happiest' Fanbase After Draft

"I was flying all over the country. Working out for this team on this day, then flying over here to work out with this team. After the draft, that's when the opportunity (with) the Spurs came to me."

Horne met with his agent after receiving an offer to play in with San Antonio for the summer — including Sacramento and Las Vegas — and decided he'd take it. Thus, his NBA journey began.

And fittingly, with a team "known for" development.

"They've got a great organization," Horne said. "Coach Pop is a great coach, and they're known for developing guys and getting them better ... that kind of stood out to me.

"They're known for giving guys opportunities, so it just made sense."

After just a few days of practice, it became clear to Horne the difference between college and professional basketball, even if it was a miniaturized version for just a few weeks.

"You're in the professional facilities," the guard said. "The same stuff that the real NBA team uses, so it's about coming in and taking every day like a pro. "I was excited to approach every day (that way)."

That he did. He'd been around college basketball plenty throughout his five seasons with the team, and as such, had a feel for the game. But still, things looked different at Victory Capital Performance Center. Horne had to get adjusted, and Kenny Trevino was in charge of making sure he did.

"We've got a lot of guys coming in from college," the Spurs' Summer League coach said. "We're getting them used to our principles and what we want to do here. ... (but) we have some good energy in here, so it's good."

READ MORE: Julian Champagnie Finds Consistent Role in San Antonio

The energy was there, which was a good start, but there were more specifics to be ironed out when it came to playing the brand of basketball San Antonio has made its identity over the years. For Horne, who averaged a little under 14 shots last season with the Wolfpack, that meant taking fewer attempts.

It meant "pounding the rock," as the saying goes.

"When you think about the Spurs as a team," Trevino said. "(you think) playing in transition. Getting back on defense and setting (it) in the half court. Playing physical ... and then what you guys have seen for decades now. Playing as a team; playing together. It's not revolving around one person."

Even with the change, however, Horne's mindset remained the same.

"I wouldn't even say much has changed." Horne said. "I've been trying to do everything that's gotten me to this point and stay true to myself. I'm just honing in on the stuff I do well and trying to perfect it."

Horne found himself in a unique situation. Not only was he a first-time professional, but he was learning from a coach like Trevino with no prior coaching experience. Up until he was named the head coach for the summer, he had spent 11 years as the team's video coordinator and before that, the ball boy.

Gregg Popovich will tell you he's a product of serendipity. But Trevino? Not so much. Every step of his path to become the Spurs' Summer League coach was a grind, which Horne recognized.

READ MORE: Why Popovich's 1st Year Coaching Wembanyama Was A Success

"He takes a very professional approach to everything," Horne said. "I think he's a good coach, and I'm excited to be playing for him ... I think he's definitely going to get the best out of all of us and make sure we all get the opportunity to show our talents."

As much as the 31-year-old coach might be praised, he wanted to focus on the players in the room when it came to questioning. Not himself.

"I'm here now," Trevino said, bluntly. "That's all that I care about. ... I'm excited for this opportunity."

Under Trevino, Horne hasn't exactly been given spotlight minutes. In the Spurs' first contest against the Charlotte Hornets, he was a coach's decision. In Game 2 against the Sacramento Kings, he registered just under 17 minutes and tallied six points and five rebounds.

He's still learning, and looking for his opportunities, but that's been arguably the biggest part about his entire experience to this point.

Four days before the Spurs tipped off for the first time of the summer, D.J. Horne and the rest of the team went to Top Golf in the evening.

For Horne, the trip was a chance to be around the other players he'd be sharing the court with —albeit, he'd be competing against them, too, but he wasn't worried about that — and a way for him to have a lighthearted outing before the real work began.

And once it did, he kept taking notes, especially from the players who had been there before.

"It's definitely good to rub shoulders with them and just pick their brain," Horne said of players like David Duke Jr. (who is no longer with the team after his rights were renounced) and Sidy Cissoko "Obviously, they've been around the program, so, I'm just kind of following their example. It's been a fun process to be able to play and gel with these guys."

That continued when the team made its way to Sacramento the morning of July 5, practicing more in preparation for the beginning of the California Classic.

"The whole group has had a ton of great energy," Trevino said. "They've been very competitive. I wouldn't say it's one person over the other, because a lot of guys are having a good camp."

WATCH: A Conversation With Spurs Summer Leaguer D.J. Horne

Horne now faces the task of showing the skills he knows he possess — and showed at NC State — on the court in the summer. As preliminary as some of those games can be, the guard knows better than anyone what it can mean for a player like him still searching for a team to call home.

"You want to take every opportunity and give it your best," Horne said. "You never know what could come out of it. Especially in this situation, you definitely want to play the best you can."

"You could leave this with a contract, you could leave this with opportunities with other teams," he added. "so, (you) go out there and put your best foot forward because it's all about that first impression."

EXCLUSIVE: D.J. Horne Speaks On Spurs' Summer League (3)

If "home" ends up being in San Antonio, Horne would be happy. If was elsewhere, he'd be satisfied. But there is a little bit of extra motivation knowing that Victor Wembanyama is waiting on the other end of a contract with the Silver & Black.

"It does give me some added motivation to know that they're looking for guards to put around Wemby to make his job a lot easier," Horne said. "That's something I feel like I could do."

Horne has five more games to show that beginning Tuesday against the Chinese National Team, but so far, he's making the most of his opportunity and learning on the daily. He's taken the chance that he was given after his team fell short in the NCAA Tournament and hoping to now win games with the Spurs in either Sacramento or Las Vegas — though, ideally, both.

And if you ask him what San Antonio, or any team, would be getting with him on a roster at the end of it all? He'll keep it simple.

"I'm a winner," he'll say. "I'm a competitor, and I just want to win."

EXCLUSIVE: D.J. Horne Speaks On Spurs' Summer League (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fredrick Kertzmann

Last Updated:

Views: 6196

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fredrick Kertzmann

Birthday: 2000-04-29

Address: Apt. 203 613 Huels Gateway, Ralphtown, LA 40204

Phone: +2135150832870

Job: Regional Design Producer

Hobby: Nordic skating, Lacemaking, Mountain biking, Rowing, Gardening, Water sports, role-playing games

Introduction: My name is Fredrick Kertzmann, I am a gleaming, encouraging, inexpensive, thankful, tender, quaint, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.