The Gophers' 2016 recruiting class will be remembered as an important one for the program. The highest touted recruit, Amir Coffey, chose to forgo his final year of eligibility and currently plays for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers but contributed greatly to the team's success and Eric Curry will return next fall for his redshirt senior season.
But before Coffey and Curry, the first commitment head coach Richard Pitino received that year was from Michael Hurt, a forward from Rochester, Minnesota. Brady Rudrud of Eden Prairie walked on to complete the 2016-17 squad's freshman class.
On Sunday, Hurt and Rudrud will play their final game at The Barn in maroon and gold.
"They always say four years goes by really quick and it honestly really has," Hurt said. "It's been a place I grew up watching countless games and being a part of the team for four years has meant the world to me."
All 14 of Hurt's career starts came in his sophomore season in 2017-18. That season, he averaged career bests 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
Over the past two seasons, Hurt has seen limited playing time, averaging 7.5 minutes per game in 2019-20. However, he has excelled in other areas, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2019, the year he earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology. A captain and leader, Pitino credits Hurt with remaining loyal and committed to his teammates.
"I watch the bench a lot to see who's engaged," Pitino said. "[Hurt] has been a constant there and it just shows the type of character he has as a kid."
Throughout the past four years, Hurt's roommate has been Rudrud. Also used sparingly on the court, Rudrud is another player Pitino praised for his character and work behind the scenes.
"Brady is a terrific, terrific kid," Pitino said. "I love being around him. I'm going to miss him, he has great leadership skills. He has a great family, he's a great person, so I've really enjoyed coaching him."
Prior to this season, Pitino surprised Rudrud. The coach announced at the end of an October practice that if the team performed well on a layup drill, he would award Rudrud a scholarship for his senior year. In response, his teammates delivered.
"It was completely unexpected," Rudrud said. "I turned around and everyone was super pumped up and I think we actually set the record for that drill."
Minnesota made the NCAA Tournament in two of Hurt and Rudrud's first three seasons, but with a record of 13-16, it appears it will miss out in their senior campaign. Still, Hurt says this season has been an important experience for him personally.
"We've had some highs and lows this season," Hurt said. "That's kind of what it's been like for me over the past years. We've had some good years, we've had some bad. So, it's like life, you take the good with the bad, you're never too high, never too low and that's what I'll take away."
Hurt, Rudrud and grad-transfer Alihan Demir will be honored prior to Sunday's season finale. The Gophers will seek to close the regular season with a victory for their seniors against Nebraska to gain momentum before next week's Big Ten Tournament.