When Matthew Hurt watches the college basketball programs recruiting him the hardest, the area that seems to interest him more than anything is which teams can best prepare him for the NBA.

“My goal is to make it to the NBA,” said Hurt, who exploded for 51 points and 17 rebounds in leading Rochester John Marshall Thursday to a win against Armstrong in the Rotary U.S. Bank Holiday Classic at the Mayo Civic Center. “I’m trying to get with the right coaches who can lead me in that direction.” 

Prep Hoops photo

Prep Hoops photo

The 6-foot-9, 215-pound five-star Class of 2019  forward added the last of the blue bloods to his list of scholarship offers after Kentucky coach John Calipari joined North Carolina’s Roy Williams in attendance to see Hurt’s 48-point performance  Dec. 14 against Red Wing.

Calipari’s pitch is that Kentucky is the No. 1 program to help Hurt achieve his goal of being drafted into the NBA after his freshman year in college. While Hurt doesn’t have a favorite school right now, he says the Wildcats being a one-and-done factory is a big plus.

“They’re a great one-and-done school,” he said. “Their coaches especially run a really good system. They have really successful players with my kind of skill set. They have great one-and-done players and their coaches are great. Facilities are nice.”

Hurt, who is averaging 39 points and nearly 14 rebounds a game this season for JM, says the colleges recruiting him the hardest at the moment are North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Minnesota and Indiana.

“I just try to take one player from each team and what I can see myself in their system and how they run things,” Hurt said. “I also like to see if they lose a couple games how they bounce back (Gophers won three straight after a two-game slide). Making my decision, I’m just trying to make the best decision for myself: culture, winning and how I fit in the system are key factors. Those are the factors I’m going to take in.”

There’s no player on the Gophers’ roster right now Hurt can compare himself to, he said. But he’s having fun watching the recent success of his older brother, Michael, a sophomore forward.

The older Hurt started the first two games of his career in the last two Gophers wins. He’s averaging 3.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 14.1 minutes a game this season. But in his last two games, Michael had 10 points and three rebounds in 26 minutes in a win against Oral Roberts and eight points, three assists and two blocks in 27 minutes in a win against Florida Atlantic.

“Good for him to get his confidence up and get more minutes,” Matthew Hurt said. “They’re going to need him down the stretch. He does the little things on the court that people really don’t notice. He’s really improved since the first day he stepped on campus.”

The Hurt brothers were last teammates in Michael’s senior season with the Rockets in 2015-16. Michael was the team’s leading scorer with over 19 points per game, while Matthew averaged around 18 points as a freshman.

“In high school, he was more of a scorer,” Matthew Hurt said. “College and high school are different levels for sure. He’s learned he has to take every possession one by one – and try to make the right play every time. For him in his mind he wants to win and make the right play. Make the extra pass. It took him time to adjust, but I think he’s adjusting pretty well now.”

His brother playing well for the Gophers helps Richard Pitino’s program have at least one advantage against the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina for his services. Hurt’s impressed that Pitino landed former Hopkins standout and sophomore Amir Coffey and now signed top in-state players Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Omersa and Gabe Kalscheur in 2018.

“Minnesota is one of the most slept on states in the country. We produce a lot of good basketball players,” Hurt said. “It was really good to keep Michael and Amir and having a great 2018 class, too. It helps me and my decision because I’m familiar with them, especially my brother. It was really important for them to get guys like that … You also just have to make the best decision for yourself with playing style, coaches and teammates. All of that stuff. It’s not (necessarily) who is on the team. It matters about the culture and what’s best for you.”

-- Oturu, Kalscheur and Omersa will all be playing in holiday basketball tournaments starting Friday. Cretin-Derham Hall plays St. Cloud Tech on Friday and Apple Valley on Saturday in the Granite City Classic at St. Cloud Apollo High School and St. Cloud State. Orono plays Woodbury on Friday and Minnehaha Academy on Saturday in the Granite City Classic. DeLaSalle plays Friday against Memphis White Station (Tenn.) in the Mike Miller Classic at the Corn Palace in South Dakota. White Station is the alma mater of ex-Gophers guard Andre Hollins.

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