Pandemic spurs basketball player’s transfer to UGA

Virginia Tech's P.J. Horne (left) defends against Duke forward Cam Reddish (2) on Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Luther Jr.)
Virginia Tech's P.J. Horne (left) defends against Duke forward Cam Reddish (2) on Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Luther Jr.)

Credit: Lee Luther Jr.

Credit: Lee Luther Jr.

P.J. Horne needed to be closer to home, and Georgia needed help in its frontcourt. As a result, the two entities will be united this summer.

Horne, Virginia Tech’s starting power forward last season, confirmed Wednesday he plans to join the Bulldogs as a graduate transfer. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Tifton resident entered the NCAA’s transfer portal Monday and accepted UGA’s invitation to join the team Wednesday.

The coronavirus pandemic was central to Horne’s decision.

“It was a big decision my family and I had to make,” said Horne, who averaged 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds while starting 30 of 32 games for the Hokies last season. “This pandemic has taken a toll on my family, so I decided I needed to come back this way. … Just being that far away from home and immediate family and not being able to travel as needed if I had to was the main impetus.”

Horne has been home in Tifton since college athletics shut down in March. In that time, one of his great aunts died because of COVID-19 and another aunt tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, Horne’s mother works as a health-care provider at the local hospital.

“She’s doing well, staying healthy, staying strong,” Horne said of his mother, Tanya. “My aunt is getting better now, too. We’re hanging in there.”

Horne said he hopes to join the Bulldogs by July. He has one class to complete online to graduate in three years from Virginia Tech with a degree in sociology. SEC basketball teams have been cleared to return to their respective campuses June 8.

Area hoops fans should be familiar with Horne. As a four-year starter at Tift County High, he led the Blue Devils to Class AAAAAAA state championships in 2014 and 2017. As a senior, his team beat a Rayshaun Hammonds-led Norcross team for the 2017 state title at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve had in 20 years,” said Rome High School principal Eric Holland, who coached Horne all four seasons at Tift County. “Averaged 24 points as a senior. Started every game and averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds as a freshman. Whatever the task is on the court, he’s up for it. But the thing with P.J. is he’s just a special person. You have to be to graduate in three years.”

Tift County's P.J. Horne (24) dunks over Norcross's Lorenzo Carter (left) and AJ Farrar (10) in 2014. JASON GETZ / SPECIAL
Tift County's P.J. Horne (24) dunks over Norcross's Lorenzo Carter (left) and AJ Farrar (10) in 2014. JASON GETZ / SPECIAL

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Horne wasn’t a regular starter with the Hokies until last season. His junior season saw his minutes increase 15 per game and his points and rebounds go up 4.3 and 2.0 per contest. In a road game against Pitt in February, Horne poured in a career-high 18 points that included four 3-pointers. He made 45 3-pointers last season after making only one the previous season.

"He's a great kid, a valuable member of our team," Virginia Tech coach Mike Young told the Roanoke Times after Horne entered the transfer portal. "… He was certainly a piece that we were counting on."

At Georgia, Horne becomes one of eight newcomers on the roster, six of whom are transfers. The Bulldogs also have accepted graduate transfers Andrew Garcia (6-5, 228) of Stony Brook and Justin Kier (6-4, 197) of George Mason. Three other players are coming via junior colleges and the other two from high schools. Georgia has only two returning starters in rising sophomores Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler.

“I just feel like it’s a situation where I can grow as a leader and as an individual,” Horne said of joining the Bulldogs. “I’ll have a lot of new teammates I need to bond with and be able to play with and compete with. But I’m just going to do whatever Coach (Tom Crean) needs me to do as far as being on the court and trying to win the game.”

» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

NEW BULLDOGS

  • P.J. Horne, 6-6, 225, senior, Virginia Tech
  • Andrew Garcia, 6-5, 228, senior, Stony Brook
  • Justin Kier, 6-4, 197, graduate, George Mason
  • Ty McMillan, 6-8, 225, junior, Kilgore (Texas) College
  • Jonathan Ned, 6-9, 200, sophomore, E. Fla. State College
  • Mikal Starks, 6-0, 180, sophomore, E. Fla. State College
  • K.D. Johnson, 6-1, 170, freshman, Hargrave Military
  • Josh Taylor, 6-8, 195, freshman, Norcross High

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