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Matthew Hurt 2.0

Duke’s forward is ready to make a big move as a sophomore

Duke v Miami
You won’t see this Matthew Hurt this season but the new version is much better
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

You remember freshman Matt Hurt. A willowy stretch four, skilled enough to take over games but sometimes lacking confidence and toughness, capable of disappearing for long stretches of time.

This is a guy who scored 25 points in an early-season win over Boston College last season and scored two points in 11 minutes against the same team a few weeks later.

In other words, a freshman.

He averaged 9.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, not bad but maybe not what Duke expected from the consensus number 12 recruit in the country.

That was then, this is now. Now a sophomore, Hurt has transformed his body and in the process transformed his entire persona. No more deferring, no more backing down.

Hurt is 6-10. He played last season at 220 pounds and frequently was tossed around by bigger, stronger ACC post players.

He did something about it.

“I got home around mid-March last year, took a week or two off . . . started working out and lifting. Worked with strength coach Will [Stephens] three or four times a week, lifting throughout quarantine. I was lucky enough to find a gym and a weight room.”

Hurt now hits the scales at 240 pounds.

How will that help him?

“A knock on me was I was a little lighter guarding the four. People would try to take advantage of me down low. I feel like this year I should finish on defense and also on offense attacking, being stronger with the ball, taking contact and finishing over bigger defenders.”

Hurt says he can see himself playing more inside.

“I think coach has been using me a lot of different ways, on the perimeter and on the blocks because of mismatches, just trying to attack all game. I’m stronger inside. I have a stronger base.”

Hurt added that he’s also worked on improving his lateral quickness, the better to effectively guard smaller players on the perimeter.

Freshman D.J. Steward told the media last week that Hurt had been the best player on the team during the early practices and Hurt said he’s ready to embrace the implications of leading a team that always has national-title aspirations.

“Last year didn’t go as expected for me. I feel like everyone has their own path. I have strengths and weaknesses. Everybody knows I can shoot. But I’ve tried to take the weaknesses from last year and tried to make them strengths during the off-season. . . . It starts on defense; getting stops, keeping my guy in front. Getting rebounds and just being aggressive, having an aggressive mind-set. Coaches are telling me to shoot a lot of threes this year, just attack the rim, show that I’m a versatile player.”

Hurt adds that he’s worked on getting his shot off quicker and having more counter-moves when opposing defenses take away his top option.

He’s also working on becoming more vocal on and off the court. Senior Jordan Goldwire and junior Joey Baker are the only recruited players who have been at Duke longer than Hurt and classmate Wendell Moore. Hurt says leadership will be a collective this season and he’s ready to take his part in that.

“I feel like everyone can lead. You don’t have to be an older guy. I’m trying to take that next step.”

Hurt sketched a view of a hungry team with 11-ACC-level players, a team with talent and versatility, a team that will look to run every chance it gets.

Yes, we do hear that every year about this time. But Mike Krzyzewski has coached lots of players who made huge jumps between their freshman and sophomore seasons. The word on the street is that Matthew Hurt is poised to become one of those and if that turns out to be the case then Hurt could be a key component in another great Duke team.