Moline guard Nate Hurt interviews the way he plays basketball — efficiently.
Take for example his answer on what it’s like to play for Moline coach Sean Taylor.
“He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to us,” said Hurt, a 5-foot-10 senior guard. “He’s a great coach. He knows what he’s doing, and I think he puts us in great positions to win games.”
There’s no arguing that as Moline has won eight straight games entering tonight's Class 4A Ottawa Sectional semifinal against Danville.
Hurt hasn’t hurt Moline (21-8) any either. The United Township transfer has played a major role in the Maroons' resurgence. He scored 17 points Friday night and played an excellent floor game as Moline (21-8) defeated Ottawa 57-50 to claim its first regional championship since 2011.
Taylor is certainly happy to have him as part of his offense that he essentially employs two point guards in the starting lineup in Hurt and sophomore Brody Harding.
“From day one, he’s been a great leader,” Taylor said of Hurt. “More by example than vocally. He’s been the hardest working kid in practice almost every day. The other kids have picked up on that and they have just tried to match his work ethic. That’s probably been the most impressive thing for me about Nate; he hasn’t come in taking a back seat. He’s come in leading from day one.”
He led the way Friday in terms of defense, ball-handling, shooting and playing with a lead. As Moline whipped the ball around, it often ended up in Hurt’s hands and he was fouled and made all six of his fourth-quarter free throws, preserving the lead.
His improved shooting over the season — from the field and the foul line — is a reflection of his work ethic, Taylor indicated. Hurt was 3-of-7 from the 3-point line Friday night and finished 6-of-6 at the line.
“I think he started out (this season) struggling with his shot a little bit,” Taylor said. “But he’s the type of kid, he comes in the morning and shoots, he stays after practice and shoots. He doesn’t settle for being average. He’s working every day to improve his game. Because of that he’s playing the best he’s ever played.”
And it’s not just improved shooting he’s brings to the Maroons.
“He gets the ball to the open people,” Taylor said. “He handles the ball. He guards. He is an all-around complete player. You don’t see that all the time anymore with specialization. He just can do everything.”
Hurt said he believed from the beginning of the season his role was to get everyone involved, help make everyone better and get them making plays.
“That,” he said of teammates making plays, “has been huge for us as a team. Players coming in and knocking down shots and playing with confidence has also been a key.”
Another reason for the Maroons’ success, Hurt said, is that Taylor pushed them during the offseason beyond what they thought they could do.
Hurt said the regional title meant everything to the Maroons and to the Moline community. The team expected it, Hurt said, but quickly added, “I don’t think anybody else saw us as being regional champs and being the last (Western Big Six-QC team) in the playoffs. I think we proved everybody wrong.”
But he knows there’s more work to be done against a quick Danville team Tuesday at Ottawa. Game time is 7 p.m.
Hurt believes controlling the tempo and not turning the ball over are two of the keys to Tuesday night’s game.
Taylor knows the Maroons have to be ready.
“They are quick,” he said. “They just come after you.
“For us, handling the ball is probably (key) No. 1,” Taylor said. “Secondly, we’ve got to cover their shooters and rebound the basketball.”
Taylor knows he has many Maroons he can count on against the taller opposition, including his senior point guard.
“He’s been a pleasure to coach,” Taylor said. “He’s been great for us the entire season.”