FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The Fairbanks basketball community has been captivated by local standout Daniel Hornbuckle since he stepped on the scene at West Valley his freshman year, immediately earning the starting point guard role.
Four years and 2,000 career points later, everyone wanted to know "where is Daniel going to school?"
To the satisfaction of the local community, Hornbuckle signed his National Letter of Intent to play for his hometown at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2016.
However, the partnership between the Nanooks and Hornbuckle did not go as either had planned.
In his freshman year, the 6-foot guard only appeared in 12 games, scoring 27 points as a member of the Blue and Gold. His sophomore year, he was tabbed with redshirt status and felt he never truly got an opportunity to display his skill set.
"I have thought about it for the last three or four years. Like, 'where did it go wrong? Did I make the wrong decision? Was it something on my part?' It is what it is," said Hornbuckle. "I try not to dwell on it anymore and hold grudges, but at the same time, we know that is going to be in the back of my mind. I am in my hometown and you didn't really give me a chance."
After the fallout at UAF, Hornbuckle took his talents to Portland Community College, where he got a fresh start.
During his lone year as a Panther, Hornbuckle averaged a team-high 21.3 points per game, 5.0 assists and shot an efficient 39.5% from behind the arc while earning Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) All-Southern Region honors along the way. Not only did he gain the recognition he had hoped for at UAF, he gained a new perspective as well.
"It always came so easy," said Hornbuckle of his high school days. "I always started, always played all the minutes, always got to do whatever I wanted. Going through the whole three years of not playing, people looking at you like you're really not that good, telling you you'll never be good enough to play on this level or any type of level, it was humbling for sure. It was also kind of like, just show you have a chip on your shoulder, like all right, I have to prove you wrong type of thing. I never had to do that."
His standout season at PCC propelled him to his next stop, Western Washington University. As a Viking, Hornbuckle will have two years of NCAA eligibility left to play ball.
"My dream was always to go Division I and I had the opportunity, but the smartest decision for me was to go somewhere where I can get one or two more extra years and try to make something happen out of that," said Hornbuckle of his decision process. "It works out because the team I am going to, they're no scrubs. I have been talking to Coach (Tony Dominguez) literally every day, I am ready to get to work and prove what I can do."
The defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions share the same conference with UAF and play each other at least twice a season. Hornbuckle plans to make a statement in his return to the Patty Center.
"I most definitely remember some of the stuff they put me through, so I for sure will be ready for that game."
Hornbuckle's path has not been linear, pulling him in directions he didn't envision. Through it all, from being the man at West Valley, to his humbling experience at UAF and back to the top at Portland CC, it is his support system that his gotten him to where he is today.
"I am blessed to be in this position and just everybody that had my back. Because I heard it, I heard all the stuff that was going around, so I am just really blessed and really appreciate the people that really had my back when everything wasn't so hot and everything wasn't so poppin'. Without that, I for sure wouldn't in the position I am now."
Western Washington is scheduled to visit Fairbanks to face the Nanooks on February 4, according to wwuvikings.com.
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