Only one Duke basketball player among nation’s 25 best

Though not a Duke basketball megastar, Matthew Hurt is earning recognition.

This week, the Los Angeles Athletic Club unveiled the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25. And for the first time since the 2016-17 season, when Luke Kennard was the lone Duke basketball name, this watch list includes only one Blue Devil: sophomore forward Matthew Hurt.

The past three years saw two Blue Devils apiece make the cut: Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. in 2019-20, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in 2018-19, and Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen in 2017-18.

Following Hurt’s lackluster freshman campaign for a five-star prospect — averages of 9.5 points and 3.8 rebounds across 20.5 minutes per game — the 6-foot-9, 235-pound stretch-four has essentially doubled his production.

With added bulk and confidence, the Minnesota native is averaging an ACC-leading 18.5 points to go along with 8.2 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, No. 21 Duke is off to a 4-2 start (2-0 in conference play) after an 83-82 home win over Boston College (2-8, 0-4 ACC) on Wednesday.

As the only Blue Devil who has started every outing thus far — and the only one who has never scored fewer than 12 points in a game — Hurt has clearly been consistent. Plus, other than at the foul line, where the 20-year-old is 13-for-20, he has been efficient, shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from downtown.

Why no other Duke basketball players are still Wooden contenders

Postponements and cancellations have resulted in Duke playing fewer games to date than any other AP Top 25 squad. Add in the fact that star freshman forward Jalen Johnson, who was the only Blue Devil other than Matthew Hurt on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list, has missed the past two contests and remains out indefinitely due to a foot injury.

Furthermore, as Duke prepares to host Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2 ACC) at noon Saturday, Hurt remains the only scorer in Durham putting up more than 13 points per game. Johnson and freshman guard DJ Steward are the only other two guys averaging double-digit point totals at 11.5 and 12.8, respectively.

The six Duke basketball greats who have won the Wooden Award

  • Christian Laettner in 1992 as a senior
  • Elton Brand in 1999 as a sophomore
  • Shane Battier in 2001 as a senior
  • Jason Williams in 2002 as a junior
  • JJ Redick in 2006 as a senior
  • Zion Williamson in 2019 as a freshman

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on Matthew Hurt plus other Duke basketball news and views.