College Hoops

Matt Hurt Talks Overall Improvements to His Game, Duke’s Freshman Class & More

Duke sophomore forward Matthew Hurt fielded questions from the media on Tuesday addressing a variety of topics that included how he added weight in the offseason, the overall improvements to his game, his scouting report on Duke’s freshman class and the depth the Blue Devils have entering the 2020-21 season.

Hurt, a native of Rochester, Minn., is Duke’s leading returning scorer after averaging 9.7 points and shooting .393 from three-point range as a freshman. He played in all 31 games last season and made 22 starts.

On how he was able to put on weight during the offseason:

“I got home around mid-March, took a week or two off since the season ended and just tried to focus on eating right, eating a lot and stay working out and lifting. I got with our strength coach, coach Will [Stephens] three to four times a week and we lifted, just doing that every day during quarantine. I was lucky enough to find a gym and weight room, so I was blessed with that. I think just doing that day by day until I came back to Duke on August 2 was really a benefit for me.”

On how he sees adding weight impacting his game:

“I feel like it’s going to impact a big part of my game because a knock on me was I was a little lighter. Guarding the four [power forward], people would try to take advantage of me down low, but I feel like this year, especially on defense but also on offense, just attacking it, being stronger with the ball and taking contact and finishing over taller defenders.”

On who has impressed him during the first practices:

“For me, I think it’s Mark Williams – I think just seeing him as a really good shot blocker. I didn’t see much of him in high school, but seeing him live and playing against him as a shot blocker, he tries to block everything. Sometimes he goal tends, but most of the time he blocks it, so I think just having that rim presence really helps. Then, he’s more skilled than people think. We can give him the ball and he can score a basket for us. I think Mark Williams really stood out for me in the first couple weeks of practice.”

On the depth of the team and the combinations of players that can be out on the court together:

“We have 11 guys that can play significant minutes. It’s not going to be just a starting five. It’s not going to be one or two guys off the bench. It’s going to be a whole team collective effort for us to win games this year.”

On if he sees the team playing fast in transition this year:

“Yeah. Especially in the freshman class, we can get out in transition. They’re all athletic. Playing a little faster and getting out in transition is really going to benefit us because we have so many players that can play very well and a lot of minutes, so I think just using our players that can play and using that to our advantage.”

On how he has helped get the freshmen acclimated since they got to campus:

“Last year, we had three great seniors in Jack [White], J Rob (Justin Robinson) and Javin [DeLaurier] helping me out through practice, what practice is going to look like once the season starts and just everything around campus. For this year, I’m just trying to do the same thing as last year because I was really lost last year when I got here, so I’m trying to help them get to class, what Coach likes, what to do off the court, how to handle academics. I just try to help out the younger guys as much as I can.”

On what else was a focus for him during the offseason outside of adding strength:

“Definitely lateral quickness, guarding smaller players so we can switch one through four or one through five. [I would] try to get with my strength coach and just try to work on those things especially.”

On what he has to do to be a more consistent player this year:

“I think it starts on defense – getting stops, keeping my guy in front and getting rebounds. [On the] offensive end, just being aggressive, having that aggressive mindset. Coach is telling me to shoot a lot of three’s this year and just attack the rim and show that I’m a versatile player.”

On what the strength of this team will be and what he’s seen from the freshman class so far:

“Our strength – I think just getting stops and getting out in transition. We have a lot of athletic guys on our team and showing what they’re capable of in transition is very special. For the freshman class, each one of them brings a unique skillset. I’ll start off with Henry [Coleman III] – his energy, rebounding, he does a great job with it and brings it every day. That’s what he brings. Mark [Williams is a] shot blocker and can finish. [He’s a] really good lob threat. As you know, Jalen [Johnson] out in transition is very special. Jaemyn [Brakefield] really can shoot it, can defend, can drive – he’s surprised me a lot too. Then, of course DJ [Steward] can really shoot and really handle, really get to the rim. Then, Jeremy [Roach] – just a really good point guard, a really calm point guard. I think our freshman class is really good and I think they don’t get as much attention as they should. I think they’re all really good.”

On who has assumed the leadership responsibilities on the team:

“I feel like everyone can lead. I don’t think you have to be an older guy with experience. I feel like me, Wendell [Moore Jr.] and some of the walk-ons that have experience can lead as well because they’ve been here, know what practice is like, know what the game is like, daily routines. I feel like it can be a lot of [different people]. It also can be the freshmen. Once the season starts and they know what’s going to happen with the games and practices and everything, I feel like anybody can lead.”

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