Starting point guard DJ Horne is quite reminiscent of former Illinois State University standout Paris Lee.
Horne took over as starting point guard for the men’s basketball team this past season, averaging 8.8 points per game on the season and 11.3 PPG in conference play.
To make it more impressive, Horne is just a freshman.
The 2013-14 season was the last time a freshman held the starting point guard role. Who was that point guard? None other than Paris Lee.
Horne and Lee are rather comparable players, as Horne stands at 6 feet 1 inch, while Lee was listed at 5 feet 11 inches his freshman year and made the jump to 6 feet tall by his senior season.
When Lee jumped on the scene for Illinois State in 2013, he immediately stole the show from Kaza Keane, who was the team’s primary point guard as a freshman the year before. Lee started 33 of 34 games for the Redbirds as they went 18-16.
Lee played a quick and exciting brand of basketball in his first year with the team, that he would continue to show in the rest of his career with the Redbirds. The Maywood native averaged 1.38 steals along with a 1.24 assist-to-turnover ratio in his first season, averaging 2.3 per game.
Horne’s playmaking leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to Lee, averaging 1.4 assists while sitting just one dish away from a 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
On the defensive end, Horne averages 0.66 steals. In all fairness, Horne is a lot less likely to cover the ball one-on-one with this year’s squad favoring a zone.
While Lee was confident in his abilities from behind the arc, he was just a shell of the shooter he would be for ISU in the future. In his freshman season Lee launched 119 three-balls, only knocking down 37.
Horne has also shown his appreciation for three-point shooting in his first season, taking 110 shots ahead of the ’Birds Arch Madness game against Drake March 5. Horne has been more effective than Lee was during the 2013-14 season, hitting 45 of his attempts. That puts Horne at 40.9% compared to Lee’s 31.1%.
Both players came into situations in which the team was not expected to perform well. Lee was brought into a squad that featured no returning starters and was picked to finish seventh in the Valley. Horne and this year’s team were also predicted to have a seventh-place finish.
Lee was able to help lead his team to a 9-9 conference record, while the Redbirds this year posted their worst conference record since 2011 at 5-13.
Redbird fans now must hope that Horne is able to follow in Lee’s footsteps. First of all, Lee played out his entire college career in a Redbird uniform. In his senior season, Lee led Illinois State to a 17-1 conference record while scoring 13 points per game.
Lee shot 81/194 from beyond the arc, averaged 4.9 assists and 1.9 steals. The Redbirds had a chance to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament in the Arch Madness final against a team they had defeated earlier that season.
While Horne has the raw talent and potential to give the Redbirds the same opportunity and similar numbers in the next three years, head coach Dan Muller just needs to put the right supporting cast around his freshman point guard.