Hurley shines in debut
T.J. Hurley made an impressive basketball debut in mid-August for the NCAA Division 1 Vermont Catamounts.
In an exhibition tournament in Montreal, the 18-year-old Fonthill resident had four points in a win over Concordia, 17 points in a victory against McGill and nine points in a triumph against UQAM. His points total against McGill was a game high and included five three pointers in the fourth quarter.
“It was a great weekend for me and it was great to get a feel for the system and what games will feel like when we start to play our season,” said the former E.L. Crossley student. “It was cool because all summer we had been competing against each other in practice and training, but it felt good to be all on the same team, cheering each other on and supporting each other.
“Individually, I felt like I had a great weekend. I fit right in to the system and it felt natural playing out there. We have a great team, it is easy to fit in and I feel our chemistry is already really high. I am excited for the season.”
Hurley’s play certainly caught the attention of NBC5 sports anchor Noah Cierzan, who made the below comments while appearing on The Brady Farkas Show on WDEV radio.
“He is one of those guys who can shoot the ball but when you see him out on the court he gets to his spots and he has a beautiful, beautiful shot. He is not someone who is necessarily going to start the year but I think he is definitely going to be making an impact as a freshman,” Cierzan said. “Looking at all the freshman — because there is a bunch of them — I think he is the one who has the biggest chance to play the biggest role this year. I can easily see him as the sixth or seventh guy coming off the bench and slotting into that three and D role. Outside of him, UVM doesn’t have a ton of shooting.”
Hurley isn’t putting a lot of stock in what the prognosticators are saying about him.
“I’m not really sure about that yet,” said the participant in the 2022 Biosteel All-Canadian game. “We are still figuring ourselves out. We have a lot of great players and a lot of older guys too so I am just going to play my role to the best of my abilities and I won’t worry too much about that.”
His goal for the season is to scratch and claw his way to as much playing time as possible.
“Playing time would be great. I am just going to work hard and hopefully earn some minutes on the floor.”
Last season, Vermont won the America East Championship, had an overall record of 28-6, including 17-1 in conference play, and played in the NCAA tournament.
Vermont head coach John Becker had high praise for the 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard when his signing was announced on the Vermont athletics website.
“T.J. is a super skilled guard with a great feel. He can really shoot it, and has picked up our system as quickly as any player I’ve coached,” Becker said. “His parents are coaches and he plays like it. T.J. will have an immediate impact on our team.”
Hurley spent two months this summer in Vermont at a summer training camp and also took two courses.
“It was lots of weight lifting, lots of team workouts and a bunch of individual workouts.”
Because Vermont was competing in an international tournament, the team was allowed to stage 10 full practices.
“It has been great for me and I felt like I fit right in to the basketball system and with the other guys on the team. I was thinking it would be hard transitioning in from high school but it has been a pretty smooth transition. There has been a lot of people supporting me and helping me which has made it a lot easier.”
There were a few surprises along the way.
“It was a lot heavier schedule, especially for the summer. I have never done summer school and my school team has never trained like that in the summer. I felt like it was a lot of work, especially early on with classes, training and making sure that I got everything done.”
He enjoyed his summer courses in sociology and geography of sport.
“The courses were condensed into four and six weeks so there was a lot of work that needed to be done in a short time,” Hurley said. “I really liked both classes and the work was more fun than the work in high school.”
He is planning to major in secondary education.
In his summer training at Vermont, Hurley was quick to discover the areas he needs to improve upon.
“The physicality will be the next step in my game. The players are really strong, there are a lot long guys and I will have to work on my strength,” he said. “It is also playing with the ball a little bit more and being more confident. I have been playing a lot of off-ball.”
Vermont opens its season at home Oct. 29 against Saint Michael’s.