Opportunity knocks for T.J. Hurley
Fed up with his inability to play basketball, T.J. Hurley decided to head to the United States.
“It was right around the time that school went back to being fully online and we weren’t able to get in any gyms so there was no basketball here. It seemed like the best option for me was to go down there,” the 17-year-old Fonthill resident said.
The Grade 11 student at E.L. Crossley ended up making his way to Melbourne Beach, Fla., just east of Orlando, for private training and mentorship at the facility of Ganon Baker. Baker is regarded as one of the premier basketball skill coaches in the world.
“To train and learn under him seemed like the best decision for me,” said the Niagara Basketball United and former Pelham Panthers travel player.
The choice proved to be an excellent one for the 6-foot-4 guard who, since the start of the pandemic, has added five inches of height and several pounds of muscle to his frame.
Initially, he was picked up by a local Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, Team Legacy, and played with it for a couple of tournaments. It wasn’t long before Baker and the head coach of the Legacy team helped Hurley land a roster spot on Adidas Team Florida, a sponsored AAU squad that plays in the Adidas 3 Stripe Select Basketball circuit.
He ended up playing 13 games for Team Florida and averaged about 20 points per game, the same average he had with Team Legacy.
Hurley was thrilled to be able to compete in the 3 Stripe Select Basketball circuit. Team Florida suited up against other Adidas circuit teams and squads from the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League).
“That league has a lot of the top players in the country, all the future D1 players and probably even a few NBA players,” Hurley said.
He believes he wasn’t out of his league against the best of the best.
“I feel I was just as good as any one of them,” he said. “I hadn’t played in over a year before going into it but I felt I was able to match up and then even outplay some of the best players we played against.”
Hurley bears little resemblance to the played who earned MVP honours in leading Crossley to the Welland Tribune title in 2020.
“Since I last played, the biggest difference is my body. I had added weight and strength which made me more athletic and able to use my body more in those games,” he said. “Down there, I learned a lot of skills from Gannon. I have better shooting and dribbling and I have made a lot of mental improvements as well, such as being tough on the court and never taking plays off.”
Hurley returned to Fonthill June 2 but is planning to rejoin his Florida team in July. NCAA Division 1 coaches are allowed to come out and watch tournaments and games during that time period and he doesn’t want to miss that opportunity.
“I went down there just to train with Gannon and it just seemed like opportunities came flooding in,” he said. “I got picked up by an AAU team, I ended up with Team Florida and now I am getting a lot more opportunities.
“I just got my first NCAA Division 1 scholarship offer from Fairfield University in Connecticut and I have also been getting interest from schools in the ACC, Big 10, PAC 12 and a lot of mid-major conferences as well.”
Hurley has been blown away by all the attention.
“It is super humbling. I have worked for this my whole life and these past three months have really changed my life.”
He is still undecided where he will be this fall for the next school year.
“I am still choosing between Crossley and the options I will have in prep schools in Canada and the U.S.”
His final decision will be based on where he feels is the best fit for him and what is going to help him the most in his goal to play Division 1 basketball.
Playing for Crossley would give him one last chance to play with his lifelong buddies.
“That is the pull for there,” he said.
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