Charles Hurt: a Shelby County Rocket to remember
BY MIKE FIELDS
Charles Hurt, who died last week at age 55 after a long battle with leukemia, is being remembered for his basketball playing days at Kentucky.
But Hurt played his best basketball at Shelby County, where he was a two-time all-stater and helped the Rockets win the 1978 state title. He hit one of the most memorable shots in Sweet Sixteen history in the championship game against Holmes.
“You couldn’t speak any higher of his character, the way he worked and the way he felt about his team,” said Tom Creamer, who coached Hurt at Shelby County. “In the four years I had him, I don’t remember him complaining about anything. He was just a very unique person, a fine young man.
“He had a lot of talent, but what always impressed me about Charles was that he didn’t want any limelight on him. He wanted it to be on the team. The team concept was the most important thing to him.”
At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, Hurt was a physical specimen. He looked as if he had a body chiseled out of granite.
“He was just born that way,” Creamer said. “He lifted very little weights, if any, in high school.”
Hurt earned a spot in Sweet Sixteen lore as a junior in 1978.
That year’s state tournament featured a first-round showdown between Apollo and Shelby County, the top two teams in Kentucky. Apollo, led by Jeff Jones and Steve Barker, was 35-0, the first undefeated team to reach the Sweet Sixteen since 1962.
Led by Hurt’s 23 points, the Rockets beat Apollo 62-55 in front of 17,000 fans in Freedom Hall.
In the quarterfinals, Shelby County clipped Henry Clay 63-62 on Norris Beckley’s shot with :01 left. Hurt had 17 points and 6 rebounds in that victory.
In the semifinals, the Rockets routed Louisville Central 78-54 behind Hurt’s 26 points and 13 rebounds.
In the championship game, Holmes looked like it had beaten Shelby County when Dicky Beal scored to put the Bulldogs up 64-62 with :04 left.
After Beal’s basket, several media members, including myself, started making our way to the area behind the Holmes bench to talk to the new state champs.
But we had jumped the gun.
After a timeout, Shelby County got the ball with :02 left, so Creamer had his players run what they called (and had actually practiced) their “two-second play.”
Mike George, who was unguarded on the in-bounds pass, threw the ball 3/4 the length of the court to Hurt, who caught it at about the free throw line, turned and banked in a jump shot at as the buzzer sounded.
For the first time in state tournament history, the title game went into overtime. Shelby County won 68-66.
“I guess it was fate,” Creamer said. “I know Jock Sutherland used to tell me that that ’78 team just didn’t know how to lose.”
Hurt had 16 points and 8 rebounds against Holmes, giving him 82 points and 30 rebounds for the week.
Hurt was the third-leading vote-getter on the Courier-Journal’s all-state team that year, behind Jerry Eaves of Ballard and Vince Taylor of Tates Creek. Beckley, Hurt’s senior teammate, also made the first team.
Hurt had a great senior season, even though the Rockets lost to Oldham County in the first round of the 8th Region tournament. He averaged 22.9 points and 17.1 rebounds, and was the second-leading all-state vote-getter. Dirk Minniefield of Lafayette led the voting followed by Hurt and Melvin Turpin of Bryan Station. All three went on to play at UK.
Charles Hurt’s visitation and funeral will be at the Shelby County High School gym on Saturday. Visitation will be 10 a.m.-1 p.m., followed by the funeral service. Hurt will be buried at the Grove Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville.
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