MICHIGAN CITY — Former Michigan City boys basketball player and 2006 graduate Antonio Hurt had himself in a great position on the bench at Westville under former City assistant coach Drew Eubank.
But when the phone call came from new Wolves head coach Tom Wells almost immediately after getting the gig, Hurt left his post with the Blackhawks to return home and join his staff for the 2019-20 season.
“I always told people when I was at Westville that if there was one job that I would leave Westville for, it would be Michigan City,” Hurt said. “It was really a no-brainer. When Wells called me after he got the job, I stayed up all night that night just thinking about the guys that we have and how we can play. “
It was a decision that not only was a simple one for Hurt as a Michigan City native and current resident, but one Eubank completely understood.
“I’m from Michigan City. I played there. I started for three years. I live in Michigan City now and I love Michigan City,” Hurt said after his team’s victory in the Love The Game Summer League at Barker.
At least on this night, he and Wells were on opposite sides as Wells coached Unity in the Community, which is made up of current and soon-to-be City players, including Omarian Hatch, Dez’Mand Hawkins, Evan Bush, Jalen Bullock and Hatch’s cousin Jamie Hodges, Jr.
Hurt and Will Walker, another former City baller who also will be helping out with the Wolves, play together on one of the league’s seven squads called #Lawless.
“Antonio is a great asset to MC basketball,” Wells said. “He is a former Wolves basketball player that relates well to the kids and can speak first-hand about the tradition and pride that exists in town.”
Not only does Hurt enjoy the friendly competition against his new proteges, he’s relishing the opportunity to play and coach them at the same time.
“I love being able to do this,” Hurt said. “I wish I had something like this when I was coming up. I was able to play against some adults, but I didn’t have anybody that could play against me and coach me at the same time. In game, I can play against the kids and then be able to tell them, ‘Hey, you should’ve set the screen here,’ or ‘You should’ve gotten back on defense right here,’ ... being able to coach them and then see them doing that stuff, it’s great to see.”
When the opportunity came to truly come home as an assistant, Hurt returned to a community that he’s not only more than familiar with, but the former Wolves bucket-maker is familiar with most of the kids that will be on City’s roster this fall.
“I probably changed some of these kids’ diapers, too,” Hurt said with a laugh. “I’m a Michigan City guy and I’ve been knowing these kids, most of them since birth. When I walk into the gym, there’s no nervousness or anything. It’s like I’ve been here since day one. Having that chemistry already with some of the kids is great.”
With the move back to his alma mater complete, not only does Hurt get to stay at home, he gets to stay around the game he’s loved from a young age. The hope for Hurt is passing that ability to be a gym rat down to his new pack of Wolves.
“If I’m not at work, I eat, sleep and breathe basketball,” Hurt said. “I’m always at basketball games. I’m always around the gym trying to come up with new plays, new schemes ... I’m a sponge, man. I just try to soak it all in.”
One of the many teaching points for the new staff is the “next play mentality”, something Hurt, along with Wells, have been preaching over the summer work period with the kids.
“You see it even out here too, when guys get scored on, they might mope a little bit,” Hurt said. “We’re telling them, ‘Don’t worry about that. Take the ball out and bring it back up the floor.’ You can see it when the guys play, they play so closed up ... we want everyone to have confidence. Wells is the same way. We want are guys to play like they belong out there, one through 15.”
The biggest thing so far for Hurt in the LTG Summer League coaching his new bunch? Along with confidence, the new-look Wolves should be playing freely and loose, because Hurt expects this coming year’s Wolves to run and press all day and night.
“These kids don’t have much fear. They’re taking it all as adults,” Hurt said. “With some of these guys having varsity experience ... I think we only have one or two guys coming up without any varsity experience, so we’ll have maybe one or two seniors and we’ll be sophomore and junior-heavy. I’m excited. To me, I think the (Duneland Athletic Conference) is the hardest conference to play, so I’m excited to see them play. Run and press and run and press. We’ve got the athletes. The biggest thing for us is toughness, team chemistry and confidence.”