Ruff Stuff: Michael Hurt, Gophers basketball player
John Marshall graduate Michael Hurt is a backup forward for the University of Minnesota basketball team, which is 7-0 and ranked 12th in the country. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound sophomore is scoring four points per game on 62-percent shooting from the field, is one of the team’s top passers, and has averaged 14 minutes of playing time per game.
Hurt and the Gophers host No. 10-ranked Miami tonight.
What’s it like to be on the 12th-ranked team in the country?
HURT: It’s an awesome experience. We are doing so well because we have most of our guys (from last year’s 24-10 team), so we are familiar with each other. And the freshmen (guards Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris) fit in well with us. As for a buzz around campus, I think that is still yet to come. Basketball is more of a wintertime thing, so I think things will pick up then.
In what ways are you guys better this year than last year?
HURT: Offensively we’re a much more threatening team. We have five (starters) who can all make plays. And (power forward) Jordan Murphy (averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds) is one of the toughest guys in the country to guard. But I think offensively we all bring threats to score. I think all of us have taken a step up with our offense.
What do you see as your role on this team? Is it defined?
HURT: What coach (Richard Pitino) cares about from me is how I play defensively. He doesn’t care about how I play offensively because we have so many weapons. But I know I can break through and score, too.
In what ways are you better this year and what’s allowed that to happen?
HURT: Getting that experience last year and getting thrown in there has really allowed the game to slow down for me this season. It was the same transition that I had going from my freshman year in high school to my sophomore season. Also, getting stronger and quicker has helped. I’ve gained 20 pounds since last year ended. Our strength and conditioning coach, Shaun Brown, does a great job with us. Having that added strength is huge. I’m 20 pounds bigger but I feel like I’m quicker. Having that extra weight helps, like when I have to guard Murphy sometimes in practice.
What is the best way to guard Murphy?
HURT: Don’t let him get the ball. But when he gets it, you just have to try to hold him out of the paint, make him use as many dribbles as you can, and then have guards dig in and help. But Murphy has taken another step forward. He knows when to go make plays. Now, he’s capable of driving and taking guys off the dribble, and he’s gotten even quicker.
Last week you played in a game against Alabama in which the Crimson Tide went the final 11 minutes with just three players, thanks to a bunch of them being dismissed for stepping onto the court during a scuffle, one fouling out and another getting injured. You guys barely hung on to win the game. What was that like?
HURT: Playing 3-on-5 was the weirdest game I’ve ever been a part of. (Alabama) was letting us shoot. We missed some shots and had some fouls. And we were putting two guys on one person. It was not normal defense. But everyone focuses on that part of it. Nobody focuses on the 29 minutes that led up to it, when we were up 14 points and playing really well.