Coming into the cold, Hurd warms to Oregon State
Freshman point guard says his job is to 'keep the scorers happy'
CORVALLIS Ñ It's a beautiful fall day, with temperatures pushing 70 degrees and the change of seasons in full splendor on the Oregon State campus. Inside Gill Coliseum sits Lamar Hurd, hands tucked into the pockets of his hooded sweatshirt.
'I don't do too well in a cold playing atmosphere,' says the freshman point guard, a grin crossing his face. 'We did some workouts this morning, and the gym was freezing. It might not have seemed that way to the Northwest guys. It is colder to me than to everyone else.
'It always takes me awhile to get adjusted. I know I will. It's one of those things.'
Hurd isn't complaining. He is glad to have earned a scholarship as the plum of Jay John's first recruiting class at Oregon State, and he isn't the complaining type, anyway. He is a 'yes sir, no sir' type of kid, who had a 3.8 grade-point average student at Heritage Christian School in Cleveland, Texas. He plans to major in communications and wouldn't mind one day becoming the next Stuart Scott.
For now, basketball has Hurd's full attention, and he knows eyes will be watching. The 6-4, 175-pound Texan will have to prove he can play at the Pac-10 level despite averaging only 9.8 points as a senior for a Class A school with only 50 high school-age students.
That doesn't sound like a recipe for success. But his coach is so sold on his recruit's potential, he has said Hurd could develop into a conference Player of the Year by the time he is a senior.
'I don't have a crystal ball, but all of the components are there,' says John, in his first year as Oregon State's head coach after four as an assistant to Lute Olson at Arizona. 'He has great size for the position, great speed, a good work ethic, and he is an unselfish kid. You don't get that combination very often.
'If everything falls into place, he is going to be one of the best players in the league by the time he is through.'
Hurd averaged 9.7 assists and 8.0 rebounds as a senior in high school. The previous three seasons, he was a member of the Heritage Christian team that won the state Class A championship. Last season, the school was 29-7 playing an independent schedule and participating in seven or eight national tournaments. One recruiting service, HoopScoop, ranked Hurd as the 90th best prep senior in the nation.
'I can score if I need to'
John says Hurd didn't need to score. When he was a junior, a teammate scored 100 points in a game, and Hurd had 32 assists. He was always the field general.
'My job was to keep the scorers happy,' he says. 'I can score if I need to. I haven't had to create shots for myself. If I get the ball, I am going to try to get to the rim. But I have been working on my (perimeter) shooting all summer, and I will work all through the season.'
Hurd is from Newcaney, about 25 miles northeast of Houston. He is the middle of three boys in the single-family household of Marlene Hurd, 'an all-world nurse,' Lamar says. 'She basically raised us, she and a huge supporting cast of friends.'
Three of Hurd's high school teammates are playing NCAA Division I ball now, and three others with 'D-1 talent' but academic problems are in junior colleges, he says. Hurd verbally committed to Baylor, but when an assistant coach left the school Hurd decided to look elsewhere. He visited Houston, Arkansas, Northwestern and Rice, but by then John Ñ who had been aware of Hurd while the coach was still at Arizona Ñ was on the trail. Hurd signed a letter of intent in May.
'Once I visited Corvallis, I wasn't going to let the opportunity pass by,' Hurd says. 'It is a fresh start in a new program. Of the schools I visited, these guys are the best to compete with.'
His high school coach, Jerome Tang, considers Hurd a steal for the Beavers.
'He will win Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and it won't be because of statistics,' Tang told The Corvallis Gazette-Times. 'It will be because of the number of victories, the turnaround. He just does what it takes to win. He thinks Oregon State can win this year, he thinks Jackson and Ricci are pros, and he thinks he is the piece that can help get them the ball better.'
Big opportunity, responsibility
John will give Hurd every opportunity to win the starting job as a freshman. The coach understands few first-year players are ready for the responsibilities necessary to be successful against Pac-10 competition. He also knows the presence of seniors Ricci, Jackson and Jimmie Haywood could alleviate any inexperience problem.
'You start counting fingers, you can barely fill up one hand of the guys who have done it well as freshmen,' John says. 'It is extremely hard. But we are going to find the best combination for our team, and Lamar has a great opportunity. There isn't any pressure to score. He needs to get the ball up court, not turn it over, defend his position and make free throws at the end of a game.'
Hurd wasn't swayed from signing with Oregon State despite the Beavers' string of a dozen straight nonwinning seasons.
'I'm not worried about us remaining a loser,' Hurd says. 'I don't see it happening. Everybody here is on the right track. I have gotten to play with these guys a bit. We have a lot of scorers. My role will be to get the ball to them.
'I don't know if this team can go to the top three spots in the Pac-10, but we definitely want to make the NCAA Tournament this season.'
If it happens, it will make the coldest, wettest of Northwest winters well worth it for the freshman from Texas.