ROCHESTER - Tre Jones stayed. That was enough for Matthew Hurt to follow.
In front of a large crowd assembled in his high school’s auditorium, the Rochester John Marshall senior announced Friday he will play for perennial college basketball heavyweight Duke.
Hurt, a smooth, athletic 6-9 power forward, is a consensus five-star prospect and was among the last of the nation’s top recruits to commit and sign his national letter of intent. He put a Blue Devils cap on his head while seated on stage with his parents, brother and sister.
He averaged 36.8 points per game for John Marshall this season and finished with 3,819 points in his high school career, fourth on Minnesota’s list of highest-scoring players and the most for a player above the Class 1A level.
Hurt was named Mr. Minnesota Basketball in late March. About the same time, he narrowed his list of potential landing spots to four traditional college basketball powers: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Speculation about Hurt’s preference was rampant on Twitter, with many believing Kansas was an early front-runner. Hurt said his final decision didn’t solidify until Duke guard and Apple Valley native Tre Jones announced he would return to Duke for his sophomore season.
“That was the icebreaker,” Hurt said. “He’s a great player and does such a good job at getting players the ball. I knew how successful he was at Apple Valley, and I wanted to play with him.”
Hurt’s father, Richard, said speculation that Kansas was his college favorite was nothing more than rumor. He confirmed that Matthew was still undecided until recently.
“It was truly a four-horse race until about three weeks ago, two weeks ago, when Tre decided that he was going to come back, that was the differentiating factor,” Richard Hurt said. “Tre coming back was big. They’ve never played together, but they’ve known each other for years and there’s a mutual admiration between the two of them.”
Matthew Hurt has made no secret that his dream scenario is to play one year in college and move on to the NBA after his freshman season. While that possibility remains, both Hurt and his father softened those expectations Friday afternoon.
“I’m not really focused on that,” Hurt said. “However many years I go to college — hopefully it’s one, but if I’m not ready after next year, I’ll come back for sure.”
Richard Hurt, who coached his son on the D1 Minnesota top club team, said: “He wants to be a one-and-done, but he also wants to be in the [NBA] for a long time. If that means he stays for a year, two years, three years, whatever it is, we want him prepared. We’ve never gone into this with the idea that his is going to be a one-and-done.”
Hurt, who expects to leave for Duke shortly after he graduates in late May, said the chance to be coached by Mike Krzyzewski was another selling point for joining the Blue Devils.
“He’s one of the greatest of all time,” Hurt said. “We’re not sure how many more years he has left in him, so just being coached by him and being able to say I was coached by Coach K means a lot.’’
Improving his upper-body strength will be the main focus for Hurt, who goes in with a reputation as one of the country’s top shooters.
“Coach K thinks I’m one of the best shooters in the class,” Hurt said. “He said the skill’s there, it’s just getting my upper body right. It’s putting muscle on. I’m about 215 [pounds] right now. I don’t know how good that would be in college.”
Hurt becomes the third five-star recruit to commit to Duke, joining Vernon Carey, a 6-10, 275-pound center from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Wendell Moore, a 6-5 small forward from Concord, N.C.