Matthew Hurt Poised to Have a Major Role in Duke's Frontcourt

In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.

With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up is the No. 12 overall recruit, Duke's Matthew Hurt. You can view all of the profiles to date here.

What He Means for Duke’s Recruiting Class

Minnesota native Matthew Hurt is one of two five-star freshman in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s No. 3 ranked recruiting class. Hurt, a forward, joins five-star center Vernon Carey Jr. (No. 5), four-star wing Wendell Moore (No. 29) and four-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley (No. 33) in Durham as the Blue Devils start rebuilding after last season’s star-studded departures. The well-rounded class fills holes at four different positions for Duke and all of the top-40 freshman are expected to make an immediate impact. Big expectations rest on the shoulders of all the newcomers, but especially Hurt and Carey in the frontcourt. All eyes will be on the Blue Devils as the world waits to see what shape they take without Zion Williamson, and the incoming talent bodes well for the perennial ACC powerhouse.

How He Fits

Point guard Tre Jones returns for sophomore season and gives Duke an experienced floor general to build its new roster around. Either juniors Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire or newcomer Stanley—who figures to get his share of starting assignments as a freakishly athletic shooting guard—will slot in alongside Jones in the backcourt and Moore should see immediate minutes at the three. The small forward should start next to the team’s two incoming five-star big men, who will anchor the Blue Devils’ frontcourt with Hurt at the four and Carey Jr. at center. Veteran forwards Jack White and Javin DeLaurier (who is back after testing the NBA draft waters) will help off the bench, as will Baker. Hurt, a 6’9” power forward, is the second-ranked player at his position in the 2019 class and comes to Durham as a penciled in starter at either of the forward slots.

As Duke looks to replace more than 75% of its scoring from last season, Hurt will be counted on as a key piece to that puzzle with the ability to score from all over the floor, even posing a decent threat from deep. With a high basketball IQ and a natural feel for the game, the McDonald’s All-American is extremely skilled for a forward and can help stretch the floor. Able to create off the dribble with an added passing ability, Hurt, who averaged 37.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game his senior season of high school, has established himself as one of the best shooters and offensive assets in the class (not just relative to his position). He can pour in points in the paint and from the mid-post, adds a strong board game and can score some additional points on putbacks. 

Hurt is also a huge asset defensively, with the skill and ability to put pressure on opponents while on defense in the paint and on the perimeter. Fifty pounds lighter than Carey but just one inch shorter, Hurt has height but he’s not the longest or strongest forward on the floor. He needs to get bigger and his stamina is definitely a concern, but Duke’s staff likely started to address both of those issues as soon as he arrived on campus. Plus, with Carey alongside Hurt in the paint and bigger options on the bench if needed, his size shouldn’t be too much of an issue as Hurt puts on some mass. With Hurt, Carey and Moore in the frontcourt and Stanley on the wing, Duke’s freshmen should lead this season’s frontcourt with a slew of veteran reserves to help as needed.

Importance to Duke's Success/Team Outlook

With Jones’s return to run the floor and the likes of Baker, Goldwire, White and more back to bring an element of experience to the team when Coach K needs, Duke should be set up for another successful season, especially if Hurt adds some size and lives up to his hype. Duke needs scoring and it needs rim protection, both of which Hurt should be able to help with as he and Carey attempt to make up for Zion’s departed offensive and defensive presence. The five-star duo brings enough two-way potential to fill the Zion-sized void on the floor, even if they have to tag-team the task. Duke’s recruits bring talent at every position needed—filling out a five-man rotation around Jones at point. The incoming class is better set up to stay afloat in the face of injury—something last year’s Blue Devils squad struggled with—which could even mean a stronger run come spring.

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