ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 9) - April 8 was a big day in the Duke basketball program for a couple of reasons. It was the day Tre Jones made it official he was returning for his sophomore season with the Blue Devils.
That decision also all but ended the recruiting process for Rochester John Marshall star forward Matthew Hurt. He wanted to be college teammates with Jones if the chance presented itself.
Hurt made that official for himself on Friday. In an auditorium filled with family, friends and fans, Hurt announced his decision to attend Duke in the fall on a basketball scholarship. He thanked everyone in attendance before putting on a Duke hat, showing off his Duke shirt and signing a national letter of intent.
“I think right there that was the ice-breaker. I think he’s a great player, he gets people the ball,” Hurt said of Jones returning. “He did such a great job this year with this team.”
The announcement ended a five-year recruiting process for Hurt, who will go down as one of the greatest high school basketball players in Minnesota history. His first Division I scholarship offer came when he was in eighth grade, from then Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
He had scholarship offers from schools across the country before he had to narrow it down. The now 6-9, 215-pound senior narrowed to a final six of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis and Minnesota.
He took four official visits, and his father, Richard Hurt, said it was a four-horse race between the best programs in the country in the final weeks. Ultimately, Jones’ decision to return and the opportunity to play for legendary coach Mike Krzykewski was too much to turn down.
“Coach K is one of the all-time greats. I think he’s the greatest of all time. We don’t know how many years we have left, so just being coached by him and saying that I got coached by Coach K means a lot,” Matthew Hurt said.
For Richard Hurt, the moment of his son’s decision was as much relief as it was bittersweet. He’s coached Matthew in some capacity since he was in fourth grade. Now, he’s a Duke fan for at least one year. Richard hoped his two sons might spend one year as teammates on the court at Williams Arena, as Michael Hurt enters his senior season with the Gophers.
But Matthew had to make the best decision for himself.
“We had two years of them together here at John Marshall. I’ve made it abundantly clear from pretty much day one that my hope was that they would play together again,” Richard said. “Obviously it is a little bit bittersweet to know that that’s not going to happen, but Matthew has to make the best decision for him. We honor that, we respect that and we live by that.”
Matthew Hurt will leave John Marshall as a consensus top-10 recruit in the 2019 class and one of the best players in Minnesota history. His numbers speak for themselves. He averaged 34.1 points, 14 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game as a senior.
He finished his career with 3,745 points and 1,439 rebounds, both state records for big school competition. He was a McDonald’s All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball in Minnesota.
His high school coach spoke of his ability to be coachable, despite being the team’s best player and go-to guy in every imaginable situation.
“He was really easy to coach, a great teammate, unselfish. Everything you want in a player is Matthew Hurt,” James Daly said.
About the only thing Hurt didn’t accomplish was the chance to play in a state tournament. John Marshall ran into Lakeville South five straight years in the section championship, losing all five.
Hurt’s decision to attend Duke also marks the end of a difficult year for Gophers coach Richard Pitino keeping in-state talent home. Despite a 22-14 season and the program’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament in three seasons, Pitino went 0-for-5 with the state’s top talent. In addition to Hurt, Zeke Nnaji of Hopkins is headed to Arizona, Tyrell Terry of DeLaSalle is going to Stanford, Tyler Wahl of Lakeville North is headed to Wisconsin and David Roddy of Breck is going to Colorado State.
About a half hour before Friday’s announcement, Matthew Hurt was in the parking lot at his high school. While preparing to make the Duke news official, he also had to call Bill Self of Kansas, Roy Williams at North Carolina and John Calipari at Kentucky to deliver the news.
Hurt also continues a pipeline of Minnesota talent playing in Durham, North Carolina. He’ll soon be teammates with Tre Jones, and his older brother Tyus Jones helped Duke win a national title. Gary Trent Jr. also spent one year at Duke before turning professional.
The final surprise Friday came in the form of a birthday cake and a singing of “Happy Birthday.” It’s Matthew Hurt’s birthday on Saturday. Signing with Duke is a pretty good way to celebrate.
But Hurt knows as well as anybody that he has to hit the reset button now to be ready for Division I basketball in the fall.
“It all starts over right now. I’ve just got to keep working every day. Just going to try to win games for us next year,” Hurt said.