- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Je'lon Hornbeak is already developing a reputation for his savvy play. The freshman guard has only been on campus for a short amount of time but he's already impressing his teammates at the University of Oklahoma.
"I think he's going to be a really, really good point guard one of these days," forward Romero Osby said. "He's already got a lot of the great intangibles. And he's got size, he's got speed, he knows how to slow it down."
Hornbeak steps on campus looking to provide depth and energy on a Sooners bench that was subpar last season.
"My role will be an instant spark," Hornbeak said. "Sam Grooms has been an established point guard last year so, (I want) to back him up and contribute to the plus-minus category that he's been able to establish."
Playing pickup ball with the veterans on the Sooners squad, Hornbeak has been as good as advertised. A three-star recruit, Hornbeak has shown the ability to play the point, make good decisions with the ball and gives high effort on both ends of the floor.
"He doesn't get into a rush," Osby said. "He might turn it over, maybe once a day, that's pretty rare for a freshman coming in who wants to prove themselves.
"He seems under control; the coaches knew what they were doing when they were getting him."
At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Hornbeak has the size to play point guard or shooting guard. He's a combo guard who could earn minutes at either position this season, particularly if he emerges as one of OU's top perimeter defenders. Arriving on campus for summer workouts and pickup games has been invaluable for the freshman.
"It was a transition," Hornbeak said. "Pretty much how it is from middle school to high school, with the change in speed, strength. (It's) decision making and determining the speed. I could get away with certain things, certain passes at the high school level that I can't now. Decision making will be a big key and being more vocal, that's what Coach Crutch (OU assistant Chris Crutchfield) has talked to me about."
He has also noticed a different mindset during his short time in Norman.
"Here, they're just hungrier," Hornbeak said. "If you don't have that hunger, I don't know what to say. If you have it, then you're going to jell right in with these guys. We all work hard, we're all here for a common goal."
The goal is to improve their finish in the Big 12 standings with the hope of earning an NCAA Tournament berth. That goal won't be achieved without significant improvement in the Sooners' overall depth and bench production.
And Hornbeak wants to take ownership as one of the players who will make the Sooners' bench a strength this season.
"My biggest strength is I play both sides of the ball hard," Hornbeak said. "We need a lot of energy, a lot of heart. We always gave one half of full effort and the second half would fizzle down.
"I want to be the guy who gets the fizzle back up so we can start winning these ball games."