Ask five-star basketball recruit Matthew Hurt to name the schools recruiting him the hardest going into the summer before his senior season, and you get a list of the bluest of the sport’s blue bloods in return.
Among those in the mix: Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Louisville and Indiana. It doesn’t get much more impressive than that.
There’s also Memphis, now coached by Penny Hardaway, who has generated as much buzz as anyone in college basketball this spring. And there’s Minnesota, the home-state school for Hurt and the program that features his older brother as a key player.
There might not be a more heavily recruited player in the country, but Hurt — a 6-foot-9 forward in the class of 2019 — isn’t dropping many hints with his college decision just a few months away.
“I’m just blessed to see all of those schools interested in me,” he told the Herald-Leader. “But I don’t have a frontrunner right now. They’re all the frontrunner right now.”
Hurt’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page is a jumble.
Kansas, Duke and Minnesota all have picks in their favor, but there have been no new predictions there in months, and no one behind the scenes has been expressing much confidence regarding his ultimate landing spot.
“A year ago at this time, I thought it was clear cut: Carolina or Kansas,” said Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans. “I think those two are still at the top, but I think in recent months the Duke idea has gotten to him. I think Kentucky, of course, intrigues him. And Louisville as well. Indiana’s also in the picture. And then you can’t discount Minnesota — they’re always going to be right there.
“But I would say it’s going to be a battle royal of the blue bloods for this one.”
Hurt averaged 33.9 points, 15.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 3.6 assists per game as a junior this past season, and he’s been one of the best players in the country this spring, shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range on the Adidas circuit.
That touch was on display during the first session of the USA Basketball U18 training camp in Colorado Springs on Thursday night. Hurt is one of 33 players battling for 12 spots on the squad — led by Kansas Coach Bill Self — that will compete for a FIBA gold medal in Canada later this month.
Once Hurt finishes up with USA Basketball, he’ll play out the summer schedule with his Adidas squad and then focus more on his recruitment.
He said he hopes to cut his list to a more manageable number shortly after the end of summer ball and then take his official visits in the fall. The plan is to commit to a school before his senior season begins and sign with that program in November.
Hurt already has plenty of skill and versatility, but he also has plenty of upside.
Ranked No. 5 nationally by Rivals.com, he can score from inside or drift out to the perimeter, where his fluid release and accurate shot are tough to defend. He said he models his game after Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, and — while it’s far too early to start comparing him to one of the best players in the world — the similarities in style are certainly there.
“He’s a multi-dimensional forward that can play three positions on offense,” Evans said. “He can make shots at a high rate. Early on, people wanted to compare him to a Keith Van Horn-type. But he’s more than just a shooter, which is what he was early on in the process. He’s now the kind of guy that can put the ball on the floor. He’s gotten way, way more athletic. He has a good feel for the game as a secondary distributor in the front court. And he has some sneaky toughness in him, too, so that enables him to be a better defender, as well.”
Hurt says he’s working on getting stronger — he’s at about 215-220 pounds — and continuing to develop the athleticism that has already shown marked improvement over the past couple of years.
“Coaches always say that positionless basketball is the best,” he said. “If I can get more muscle, I can guard the ‘4’. If I can get more lateral quickness, I can guard the ‘2'.”
Positionless has been one of John Calipari’s biggest buzzwords in recent recruiting cycles, and Hurt has been on the Wildcats’ radar for a while.
UK’s coaches have been watching him closely for more than a year, hosted him for an unofficial visit to Lexington in the fall and then followed through with a scholarship offer in December, after Calipari watched one of his high school games.
The interest is definitely mutual.
Before he finally landed that UK offer, Hurt talked openly about how it was the one offer he wanted but didn’t yet have. He spoke Thursday night of Calipari’s track record with future NBA stars.
“They’re great,” Hurt said. “They have great one-and-done players. Calipari has a lot of one-and-dones succeeding in the NBA right now. That’s my biggest thing I get out of Kentucky. They develop over the year, or two — however long they’re with them — he’s developing them really good.”