Mackenzie Hurd

Nelsonville-York senior Mackenzie Hurd (second from right) signed her National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Youngstown State on Friday. Hurd is joined, left to right, by her father John Hurd, sister Haley Hurd and mother Sandi Hurd.

NELSONVILLE — Mackenzie Hurd said her goal has always been to play Division I basketball.

But she found herself in a precarious position a few months ago, coming off a major knee injury.

“Going into my senior year, I didn’t have any offers,” Hurd said. “I didn’t have any connections. I was kind of just stuck there, lost, like I didn’t know what to do.”

Hurd, a senior at Nelsonville-York, needed a coaching staff to give her a chance.

She found that with Youngstown State.

Hurd signed her National Letter of Intent on Friday at Nelsonville-York’s Ben Wagner Gymnasium. She will continue her basketball career with a scholarship to play at Youngstown State.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world.” Hurd said. “Seven months ago, when I came back from injury, I didn’t know if I would be signing a letter of intent. It’s just really rewarding that this opportunity came.”

Hurd’s basketball journey from Buchtel to Youngstown hit a bump in the road a year ago.

Two games into her junior season, Hurd suffered a major knee injury. Not only did it bring her basketball season to a premature conclusion, it slowed down her recruiting process.

“For myself, I always knew I had a goal to play Division I basketball,” Hurd said. “After my injury, I never lost sight of that goal. It kind of seemed like a block in the road. For schools, they saw it as, if she can’t handle it now, can she handle it then?”

Xavier offered Hurd before her sophomore season, but pulled the scholarship offer after her injury.

Hurd said she took that as a sign she was met to play elsewhere, and continued working on her rehab through the winter and spring months.

“I just kind of made it my goal every day when I was strengthening, getting everything back to normal,” Hurd said. “I’m supposed to be the player who makes it Division I for Nelsonville-York. That is my goal and I set it. I just wanted to set an example for the girls on our team that an injury doesn’t matter,. If you set your mind to it, you can go do it.”

Hurd was cleared to return to basketball activities last summer, and played with her Buckeye teammates in June. She was also able to compete in AAU tournaments. She said her knee held up to more than 90 games played last summer.

“No injury, no swelling, nothing,” Hurd said. “And after that I told myself, it’s on you, You take it where you want.”

Hurd finally got an opportunity on the table in September, when Akron offered a walk-on position.

Hurd accepted the offer, and enrolled into school at Akron.

That’s when Youngstown State came into the picture. The Penguins recruited Hurd initially in her high school career, and came back into the picture with a scholarship offer after Hurd’s Senior Night volleyball match.

“They were like, ‘hey these are our circumstances. We’ve recruited you in the past. We think you’re a really good fit for this program,’ and they offered me on the spot,” Hurd said.

Hurd eventually switched her commitment from Akron to Youngstown State. She said Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach John Nicolais was the main coach in contact with her.

Hurd said she felt a connection with Nicolais, a Parkersburg native.

“It was easy to connect, because it felt like I was talking to someone who is from here,” Hurd said.

The Penguins are led by head coach John Barnes, who is entering his ninth season leading the program.

“We are very excited to have Mackenzie join our YSU family! She is a big, strong guard who can play all perimeter positions,” Barnes said, in a press release. “She can score at all levels and is very tough when it comes to doing all the little things that help you win games. I think she is going to have an outstanding senior year of high school and parlay that right into her first year at YSU.”

Hurd intends to major in business administration at Youngstown State.

Bobby Cassady enters his sixth season as the Buckeyes’ head coach. He’s seen Hurd progress through the program, and had nothing but praise for her work ethic.

“I think Youngstown State’s going to be very happy once they get her on the court,” he said. “She’s very talented, smart and a great teammate. She’s the total package. She’s doing to do great things there.”

Hurd served as the Buckeyes’ point guard her freshman and sophomore seasons. She averaged 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a freshman, and 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game as a sophomore.

Cassady said the sky is the limit for Hurd going into her senior season.

“It’s almost like she hasn’t lost a step right now,” he said. “She’s back to where she was pre-injury.”

The Buckeyes open their season on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at home against Belpre. It will be Hurd’s first home game in two seasons, as both games Hurd played in a year ago were on the road.

She has high expectations going into her final season wearing a Buckeyes’ uniform.

“I’m really exited. Mainly, my goals are to win the TVC, because I think we have a a really good chance. And I want to get another district title like my sister’s group did,” Hurd said, referencing the district title won in 2014 when her sister Kaitlyn was a sophomore.

The Buckeyes bring back the bulk of last year’s team, and will add a healthy Hurd back to the lineup.

“Everyone else is going to benefit from having Mackenzie back, because she draws so much attention,” Cassady said. “She’s able to create for others and get others open looks. It’s not just her out there playing great. She’s got a good team around her too. They’re going to benefit from her and she’s going to benefit from them too this year.”

Hurd can attack the season knowing that her college future is secure at Youngstown State.

I’m really excited. There’s no better feeling than making the people around you proud,” she said.


Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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