The first thing you notice about Stephen Hurt is his height. At 6-foot-11, the Kansas State center towers over everyone else in the room, with a flat top making him appear even taller than he already is.
The second thing you notice is his size. At 265 pounds, he is the thickest man on the Wildcats’ roster. And he lost nearly 40 pounds to look the way he does.
He is the type of big man you see all the time at college basketball’s traditional powers, but rarely at K-State. Not since the days of Luis Colon have the Wildcats possessed a power forward with the combination of height and size that Hurt brings to the roster this season. Unlike Colon, though, Hurt isn’t your prototypical banger. Though he enjoys battling for rebounds and playing with his back to the basket, he models his playing style after Dirk Nowitzki and is unafraid to step outside and take jump shots.
So it goes without saying that Hurt, a junior-college transfer that began his college basketball career at Lipscomb, will bring a new element to K-State’s frontcourt this season.
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“I can shoot the ball pretty well,” Hurt said. “I am more of a finesse power forward. I can rotate the ball between each hand and step out and make the jump shot. I can also go down low and bang, as well.”
His unique skill set has already earned him a nickname.
“I call him Dirk the Hurt,” forward Brandon Bolden said. “Dirk Nowitzki is his favorite player, and he likes to shoot a lot. He can really shoot the ball. He can post, too. He has good moves, good footwork. He is not as athletic, so he relies more on his footwork and shooting the ball than most power forwards. But he can do it all.”
K-State coach Bruce Weber is hoping he can rely on Hurt in all areas this season. In past years, K-State has lacked both height and size inside. Hurt provides an instant boost in both areas.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say they lacked (a player like me), but the addition of me helps out a lot,” Hurt said. “You want more depth, size-wise, and I help.”
That he can also spread the floor on offense as a pick-and-pop option, while protecting the rim on defense, is an added bonus.
“Last year we had to crash the boards every possession to get rebounds,” sophomore guard Marcus Foster said. “This year, we can ease off it and let our big men go get it so we can get out in transition. A guy like Stephen, he is so skilled and can do so many things, it almost like he is a 3 sometimes, because he can bring it out and shoot and post you up.”
That versatility earned Hurt acclaim as a redshirt freshman at Lipscomb, averaging 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. At the end of the season, he was named Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year. But he transferred to junior college after a coaching change. Now he’s back, ready to make a difference at the Division I level.
“I definitely have a bruiser mentality coming in and setting the tone down low,” Hurt said. “Along with (Thomas) Gipson, I want to make sure I clean up the boards and stay on the glass as much as possible. Obviously, I want to score the ball and help the team out in that way, too, but I also want to be a rim defender ... I’m prepared to do anything for this team.”
Washburn at Kansas State
When: 2 p.m. Sunday exhibition
Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM