SAN ANTONIO – Matthew Hurt and other stars in the 2019 class played in USA Basketball events before, but this week was something much different and exciting.
For the first time this year, USA Basketball and the NCAA partnered to launch the Next Generation program, which provided 24 players from the high school junior class the opportunity to compete against NBA Academies’ international development teams and experience the Final Four at the Alamodome.
Hurt, a 6-9 five-star forward at Rochester John Marshall, was chosen to be on the U.S. junior national select team, which included fellow 2019 top-10 players Cole Anthony (Archbishop Molloy, N.Y.), Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine (Ranney School, N.J.), Trendon Watford (Mountain Brook, Ala.) and Jalen Lecque (Christ School, N.Y.).
“It means a lot to be selected in the first event,” said Hurt, rated the No. 4 player in his class by 247Sports.com. “This week was all about having fun and bonding with the guys. Whenever you put the USA jersey on it’s an honor.”
On Saturday, Hurt scrimmaged against players from China, Africa and Latin America inside of the basketball training facility at George Gervin Academy in San Antonio. His family watched from the courtside bleachers, including older brother Michael, a sophomore forward with the Gophers.
During his last game, the nimble wing showed off his all-around game — nailing a couple three-pointers, blocking shots and cutting to the basket for finishes above the rim.
“He’s very skilled and very unselfish,” USA Basketball director of youth development Don Showalter said. “I don’t remember him missing too many shots, but he made some great passes. He’s an all-around good player. Events like this can take him to the next level.”
John Marshall (26-3) lost to Lakeville North in the section title game, but Hurt averaged 33.9 points and 15 rebounds this year.
The Class of 2019 and the NBA Academies players watched the national semifinal games Saturday night. Hurt and his USA teammates also got to play on the Alamodome court early that morning.
Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international operations, said the Next Generation program will take place again next year with the 2020 class for the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis. Minnehaha Academy sophomore Jalen Suggs will have a chance to play in that event.
“We can make it even better next year,” Meek said. “This is a first-time event, so people were trying to feel it out and what it’s about. I think the experience the kids have here is once in a lifetime, especially the international kids who may never get to see another Final Four.”