Boys basketball: JM's freshman prodigy has rare skills

Big brother Michael Hurt wasn't convinced about little brother Matthew until this summer.

Matt Hurt
John Marshall's Matthew Hurt finishes off the steal and set up from Isaiah Walden against Mankato East in second half action Tuesday at JM. More photos from this game are available at

Big brother Michael Hurt wasn't convinced about little brother Matthew until this summer.

The talk had been that Matthew, just a freshman at Rochester John Marshall, could end up being one of the top recruited players ever out of Minnesota.

And that was talk that began last year, while Matthew — then just an eighth-grader — spent the entire season as a Rockets varsity starter.

The 6-foot-8 Matthew put up stunning numbers for a 14-year-old, averaging 15 points and six rebounds for a team that finished one win away from the state tournament.

Michael Hurt was JM's best player last year as a junior and committed to play for Minnesota in January. The 6-7 forward also came away impressed with Matthew's play.


But after watching him do his thing this summer on an elite AAU team that went against some of the top athletes in the country, he too became a believer in the Matthew hype.

"It was (then) that I really saw how much athletic ability he has," said Michael, whose Rockets play in the Rotary Holiday Classic beginning 5 p.m.Tuesday against Prior Lake at Mayo Civic Auditorium. "That's when my opinion of him skyrocketed. I knew he'd be a Division I player (eventually). But after watching him hold his own against some incredibly athletic guys, going toe to toe with them, that's when I started to believe that he can be one of the top 20 players in the country."

That likely won't be for another three years. Right now, Matthew is going to have to settle for being one of the top players in the state. At 6-foot-9, 195 pounds, and with rare quickness, leaping ability, agility and a refinement to his game well beyond his years, Matthew is no doubt already among the state's best.

He's putting up gaudy varsity numbers for any age, much less a freshman. He's doing it on a JM team that is 7-1 and ranked sixth in Class AAAA. His averages are 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks per game. He's also shooting a superb 57 percent from the field.

Superstar in the making

He's already a handful, and barring a major surprise, he'll go down as the best player ever out of Rochester and one of the best ever out of Minnesota.

Austin coach Kris Fadness got another look at Matthew recently and watched him go off for 31 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots against his team.

Fadness sees him as a once-in-a-lifetime player in these parts.


"The coordination and skill level for someone his size at his age is ridiculous," Fadness said. "He is simply the best college prospect I have seen in 19 years in the Big Nine (Conference). He is unguardable in our league because of his size, athleticism and versatility. He can get his shot off at any time, yet he plays good team basketball."

Fadness says that college coaches will be coming in droves to the JM gym the next few years.

"I am sure all the big dogs in the NCAA world are taking a good look," Fadness said. "The scary part is his body hasn't even matured yet. Right now I think people just try and be physical with him, but that will only help him get better."

It became evident early in life that Matthew Hurt, the second oldest of Richard and Jenny Hurt's three children, had some basketball prodigy in him.

He was a running back in football as a youngster and also enjoyed baseball. But it was in basketball that he set himself apart, always playing with kids one year older than him.

Coming of age

It was in fifth grade that he truly started to seem different.

"That's when I realized I could be special in basketball," said Matthew, who routinely put in four-hour practices this past summer, working on his strength and skills. "That's when I started to see triple teams (by defenses) and all that."


His rise to the JM varsity was a quick one. He starred on the Rockets junior varsity as a seventh-grader, and even picked up some varsity minutes that year.

But he was available for the masses to see last season, when he started for the JM varsity and had games where he was already the best player on the floor.

Matthew shot a crazy-good 63 percent from the field as an eighth-grader, doing it with range, too. He also was a dynamic dunker and played some of his best basketball in big games.

But JM coach Kirk Thompson says he was just scratching the surface.

"He is very gifted and something I have not seen before in my 22 years of coaching," Thompson said. "But last year you could tell he was just an eighth grader. This year his basketball skill set has really improved and he's physically more mature and he continues to learn the game. I hope he continues to improve."

Matthew can't help but find himself occasionally dreaming about the more distant future. He knows what he wants, and that's to be an NBA player someday.

He wouldn't mind it coming in short order, with his ultimate wish to play one year in college and then jump to the NBA. He thinks he'll be physically ready by then, picturing himself at about 6-11 and 235 pounds by the time he finishes high school.

First, though, there is a bunch of high school basketball to play. That includes a final season to savor playing alongside big brother Michael and trying to get this team to its first state tournament since 2003.


"Playing with Michael is a big deal for me," Matthew said. "He is a future Gophers player, and he's from Rochester. To be able to play with him is awesome, because we'll be watching him on TV next year playing against the best of the best. It's going to be weird when he's gone, because he's my brother and I'm going to miss him a lot. So will our entire team. He does everything for us."

Next year, and the year after that and the year after that, that will be Matthew. He'll be doing everything for John Marshall. And there will be a horde of college coaches asking him to eventually do everything for them.

Rochester John Marshall freshman Matthew Hurt is quickly emerging as potentially the greatest boys player Rochester has ever produced.

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