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Duke's Matthew Hurt declares for NBA draft
AP

Duke's Matthew Hurt declares for NBA draft

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Duke's Matthew Hurt shoots over Virginia Tech's Isaiah Wilkins during action at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, on February 22, 2020.

Duke's Matthew Hurt (21) shoots over Virginia Tech's Isaiah Wilkins during action at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, on February 22, 2020. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)

DURHAM, N.C. — After dramatically improving his basketball game from his freshman to sophomore season at Duke, Matthew Hurt is going pro.

Having led the ACC in scoring at 18.3 points per game last season, Hurt is joining ex-teammates Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward by declaring this summer’s NBA draft.

“I’m so appreciative of Coach K, the coaches and staff at Duke for always trusting and believing in me,” Hurt said in a statement released by the school. “It was always a dream of mine to play at Duke, and it’s also a dream of mine to play in the NBA.”

But, like Steward, the 6-9 Hurt leaves Duke still having to prove he’s ready for the NBA. Prior to declaring, neither received the level of feedback from NBA scouts they’d hoped to hear.

While Johnson is listed as a first-round pick in mock drafts by various analysts, Hurt and Steward are listed as second-rounders, at best.

A list of the top 50 draft prospects, published April 7 and linked on the NBA.com draft page, didn’t include either Hurt or the 6-3 Steward, who averaged 13 points per game as a freshman last season. A CBSSports.com list ranking of the top NBA draft prospects listed Hurt No. 37.

“The NBA team that drafts Matthew is getting a player very dedicated to his craft,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He is already a pro in how he approaches the game and approaches his development as a player and a person.”

Hurt’s skills on the offensive end figure to translate, particularly his shooting ability. He made 55.6% of his field-goal attempts last season for Duke, including an impressive 44.4 of his 3-point shots. Having bulked up to 235 pounds between his freshman and sophomore years, he grabbed 6.2 rebounds per game.

All that production came after he averaged 9.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2019-20. Hurt was voted the ACC’s most improved player for 2020-21 while also being named first-team all-ACC.

“Duke has made me become a better player and person, and has put me in a position to take this next step in my career, “Hurt said in a statement. “I know this has been a difficult year for so many people, and although our Cameron Crazies didn’t get to see us play this season, know that we appreciate all the love the and support you show our team.”

Hurt’s departure comes as Duke is adding 6-7 forward AJ Griffin and 6-9 center Paolo Banchero to its front court for next season. Both players are five-star recruits rated among the top 10 players in the class of 2021.

They will team up in the frontcourt with Mark Williams, the 7-foot center who averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for Duke as a freshman last season. Williams improved dramatically as the season progressed, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds in Duke’s two ACC tournament wins.

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