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Tech Student’s Road to D1

Troy Hornbeck Youtube Channel

“What would happen if a 16-year-old boy worked out, trained, and did everything he could to reach his dream of being a D1 basketball player?” 

Civil Engineering major Troy Hornbeck (‘25) has made this question the focus of his viral social media series documenting his journey on the basketball court. He has made an impressive commitment to not only training consistently but also to recording his development over the past 11 months, during which he has accumulated over 160,000 followers on TikTok and 134,000 on Instagram. He has called this public “training journey” the “Road to D1,” a reference to the recruiting process of Division 1 Basketball within the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

During his time on the Brooklyn Tech Boys Junior Varsity (JV) Basketball Team, he was a starter and major contributor to the team, averaging 19.7 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. However, as he moved up to the Varsity division, Hornbeck realized that he would need to work harder than ever to achieve his goal of playing D1 basketball. 

Hornbeck was unhappy with his skill level, role, and feeling of underdevelopment in comparison to his competition, so he chose to document the journey of his improvement and encourage himself during the process. He recorded his progress in his playing ability, and by doing so, he got his name out on social media.

Hornbeck’s commitment began even before his first post was released. “I planned it out,” he explained. “I made five [videos] before I started uploading them. I wasn’t thinking about what people were going to say, I just dropped it.” The positive attention was a big boost for his plan. “[Social media] helps get eyes on me as a player,” Hornbeck added. 

Hornbeck released the first video of the series on July 21, 2023, and it quickly received 55,000 likes, serving as a major breakthrough for him. Since then, his follower count has not only grown, but his outlook on his basketball career has changed. “It has opened up so many doors,” he noted. “I’ve talked to some coaches, [and] I’m not highly recruited or anything, but I feel like I’m more known.” 

Having the discipline to work out every day is a daunting task, but Hornbeck has found the motivation through the support of his following. “Since my content is an everyday thing, it sort of forces me to work out and get better,” he said. “Even if I’m tired, I have to go out there.”

On the court, Hornbeck has seen improvement in his skills. “My ball handling is probably the thing I [have] improved the most,” he said. Making the jump from JV to Varsity, he still averaged 15 points and led the entire roster in points. Coming into this past season, Hornbeck’s best attribute was his shooting ability, with the rest of his game coming along, even his shot improved dramatically. On JV, Hornbeck averaged 65% from the free throw line. This year, that number leaped to just over 97%. 

“Of course, I have more work to do,” he admitted. “But I feel like if I keep working the way I am, I could reach my full potential.”

Beyond his personal development, Hornbeck also wanted to create something that would have a meaningful impact on his audience. “I just want to provide someone they could relate to, and inspire them to follow their dreams and goals,” he emphasized.

The platform that Hornbeck has built does come with some new challenges, though, especially when it comes to finding the balance between basketball and school. “I have to just find time to edit between class and working out,” he said. “I feel like anyone could do it if they don’t procrastinate and waste time.” 

Time is in short supply, and just like on the court, finding the motivation for schoolwork does not always come easily. The extra load he is carrying on his shoulders does make him more susceptible to burnout, especially with the ups and downs of social media. 

“There was a point where all of my videos had really low views, and I genuinely did not know if I should keep going, he said. “I felt like I was plateauing.” Despite that, he has remained confident and is pushing on towards his final goal and trying to enjoy the ride.“It’s more pressure, but at the same time it’s fun, and I don’t regret doing it,” he emphasized. 

Hornbeck’s journey recently took a step forward with his decision to leave Tech after this school year. Instead, he will attend the Taft School, a private boarding school in Connecticut, after having reclassified to the class of 2026, a grade below his current one. Reclassification has become an increasingly popular move among D1 hopefuls looking to buy themselves more development and exposure time to help increase their chances against other elite players.

“For a kid like Troy, it works. He’s doing it for a calculated reason,” said Mr. Elmer Anderson, the Dean and Coach of the JV Basketball Team. “It’s important for kids to take ownership over their lives, even if they’re young. He’s moving on to an additional stage that puts him in the spotlight and could probably garner him what he’s looking for.” While this can attract more attention to him as a player, it also holds a lot of risks, as he could quickly be relegated to the end of a talented roster.

While only 1% of high school basketball players make it to the D1 level, Hornbeck is staying focused and hopeful, knowing that with every triumph, more eyes will be turning to him. With his fourth year playing on the horizon and a giant leap to a new school, time is ticking. Hornbeck’s platform keeps growing by the day, even having earned himself a slot on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team of rapper Gunna, who has 42 million listeners monthly on Spotify. With Hornbeck’s growth has come high expectations and pressure, both from himself and his fanbase, meaning that his efforts will need to count more than ever to reach his dream of becoming a D1 basketball player.

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About the Contributor
Afeseh Wapimewah
Afeseh Wapimewah, Staff Writer
Afeseh (he/him) is a Staff Writer. Afeseh likes the process of finding information, retrieving it, and releasing it to a public audience. Afeseh is thinking about doing journalism and probably is leaning in that direction. Afeseh likes playing basketball, reading, watching shows or games, and drawing. His favorite books include the Percy Jackson Series, The Porcupine of Truth, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and the Football Genius series.

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