St. Joe’s Deja Horn fine-tunes defensive skills

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Whenever St. Joseph’s senior leading scorer Chanel Brown gets matched up with Deja Horn in practice, Brown knows it’s going to be a long day.

“She’s always guarding me,” Brown said with a laugh. “She makes me work so hard.”

Horn, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, has been named the team’s defensive player of the year in each of her first three varsity seasons. There’s a good chance she will make it a clean sweep this year.

“I think defense is all about wanting to be good at it,” Horn said. “I’ve always been a good defensive player since I started playing in fifth grade.”

Horn, who is a captain along with Brown and Kietta Saunders, has a complete set of skills. She’s averaging 5.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals a game for the Chargers (4-4), but defensively is where she shines most.

“As soon as Deja sees a person coming, her instincts are to go stop her,” Brown said. “She’s always in the right place and never thinks, ‘should I wait?’ She plays great help defense and if you can’t catch a man, she’s there for you.”

Horn and Brown have been friends since seventh grade when they both were on the same AAU team in Maywood. Neither knew they were going to St. Joseph at the time, but both are glad to be teammates today.

“She’s a good person,” said Brown, who joined Horn as a first team all-tournament selection at Willowbrook earlier this season. “She’s a good academic student and helps me a lot with any work I need help with. She’s a great friend.”

St. Joseph coach Jim Maley appreciates Horn’s competitiveness.

“Deja is a rare player who hates to lose at anything — not just games, but sprints at the end of practice or whatever,” Maley said. “Not many players are driven as much at the ‘non-glory’ aspects of the game that take hard work in addition to athleticism.

“She carries her will to win over into her schoolwork, as she will into whatever she chooses to do when she gets out of school. It is an honor to coach a player who takes it as seriously as she does.”

Horn doesn’t believe she any more competitive than the next person.

“No one likes to lose, but I hate losing,” Horn said. “No athlete wants to shake the other team’s hand and say congratulation when you just lost.”

Horn, a second-year captain, has a full scholarship to play at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., next year.

In addition to spending as many hours in the gym as possible and hitting the books hard, Horn has a job. She’s used to juggling activities.

“I’m always busy,” Horn said. “I’m never doing nothing. Getting a part-time job took time away from me being in the gym so that was a big adjustment. Academics are very important. I know if I don’t do well in the classroom I’m not getting on the court.”

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