ROCHESTER – Matthew Hurt doesn’t hesitate when choosing his favorite subject in high school. He loves math, especially the stats class he’s taking this year.
“It comes easy to me,” he said.
Fitting, because the Rochester John Marshall senior knows a thing or two about stats in a different realm.
Hurt’s basketball résumé is chock-full of gaudy numbers. Only one thing is missing from one of the greatest individual prep careers in Minnesota hoops history: an appearance in the state tournament.
Hurt has one last chance to amend that. The state’s all-time leading scorer among big schools and one of the nation’s top recruits carries John Marshall into section play of the postseason this week.
The Rockets have lost to Lakeville North in the Class 4A, Section 1 championship six consecutive years. Hurt has been part of five of those losses, dating to his seventh-grade season. A few of those games were close and easily could have swung the other way.
Lakeville North is the top seed and favorite again in Section 1. JM is the No. 2 seed. Motivation is not hard to find.
“We want it bad,” Hurt said. “We’re hungry for it.”
Whatever the outcome, Hurt’s legacy already is cemented.
With 41 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Rockets’ 87-70 victory over Rochester Century to open the section playoffs Wednesday night, he has scored 3,745 points in his career, which is third-most in state history. He also holds the big-school state record for rebounds with 1,439.
Hurt has led the state in scoring (all classes) three consecutive seasons. During the regular season, he averaged 36.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.
“I can’t give all the credit to myself,” Hurt said. “I have had great coaches, teammates. I don’t really focus on [stats]. I just want to win.”
Hurt is being recruited intensely by college basketball’s bluebloods — Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and others. It’s common to see a coach from one of those schools sitting in the bleachers behind the Rockets bench during games.
Coaches hop on private planes to squeeze in visits to Rochester to watch Hurt play. Their presence makes clear how badly they want him to choose their school.
“For them to be in our living room [giving their sales pitch], that is surreal,” said Hurt’s father, Richard. “He just handles it in stride. I’m the one who gets a little jittery.”
Hurt shrugs off any perceived ideas that he might feel pressure with high-profile coaches at his games. He makes it no secret that his goal is to play one year of college basketball before entering the NBA. He plans to announce his college choice in April.
“Every time I walk into the gym, to take pressure off of me, I try not to pay attention to [college coaches],” he said. “They’re there and that means a lot to me. But I’m just going to play my game.”
His game is versatile and smooth and difficult to stop with only one defender. Hurt is 6-9 with size 17 shoes and arms so long that he looks like he could drive a car from the back seat. But he has guard skills and a shooter’s touch. He has made 263 career three-pointers.
Hurt doesn’t play a set position. Sometimes he’s point guard, sometimes center and sometimes he plays on the wing.
He has seen every defense imaginable in hopes of containing him —box-and-one, matchup zones, half-court traps, double- and triple-teams. Defenses also use rugged players to pound on him physically.
Hurt isn’t fazed by it anymore.
“I wish I had his composure,” JM coach Jim Daly said.
Cretin-Derham Hall tried double-teaming Hurt at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Hopkins High School in December. Hurt scored 42 points in a loss, making 17 of 24 shot attempts.
“He was able to split our double teams and able to shoot right over them — and made it look real easy,” Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jerry Kline said. “He’s 6-9 and can shoot it from 25 feet. And he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and he can do a pull-up. Why does North Carolina come up here every other weekend? That’s why. He has an uncanny ability to score from anywhere.”
Been that way since he was a young kid. John Marshall’s coaching staff told Richard not to sign up his son for youth basketball in seventh grade because they wanted to him to play on the B-squad with sophomores. Hurt was 6-5 at the time.
At a holiday tournament that year, Minnetonka brought its junior varsity team to play John Marshall’s B-squad. Hurt scored 28 points against a lineup of juniors — four years older than he was — who were beating on the young kid with no effect.
“It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen,” said Ryan James, a former coach and long-time recruiting analyst for Minnesota high school basketball who was coaching Minnetonka’s junior varsity that game.
Hurt moved up to JV after that and saw varsity action a handful of games. He became a full-time varsity player as an eighth-grader, joining older brother Michael, a former Mr. Basketball runner-up who now plays for the Gophers.
James calls Matthew Hurt “one of the most efficient offensive players in the history of Minnesota.” He doesn’t often force shots, instead passing to teammates even when he knows he can score.
“He’s unselfish almost to a fault,” Daly said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, a family friend of the Hurts, told Richard that Matthew’s best attribute on the court is his calm demeanor.
“He doesn’t show his emotion in a way that reveals much of anything,” Richard said.
Like most hoops prodigies, Hurt grew up with a ball in his hand. He spends at least four hours on the court every day during the summer. Off the court, he’s a typical teenager.
“He’s an 18-year-old kid that wants to go out with his buddies after the game and have a hamburger and chicken wings and just play video games,” Daly said.
Here’s where Hurt is not a typical teenager: He has played against the guy he usually chooses in the NBA 2K video game, Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic. Hurt spent two weeks last summer training with Doncic and playing in pickup games with him in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“It was nice,” Hurt said. “He’s had a great year.”
Hurt has had a great senior year, too. Now, he hopes to add a punctuation mark to a record-setting career by making his first state tournament.