Matthew Harshany isn’t your typical 17-year-old high school student. He is what Navarre basketball head coach Taf Bentley called “the embodiment of a student-athlete.” Hershany is razor’s edge close to becoming valedictorian of his class. He currently ranks No. 2 of 509 students with a 4.83 GPA. He completed two years of chemistry, physics, and calculus in addition to a course load that has always consisted of AP and Honors courses. He also took two semesters of Chinese at the University of West Florida and scored a 33 on his ACT.
He does all of this with a schedule that would make most people cry uncle. Hershany drives one hour each way to and from school. His day typically begins before 6 a.m., and during basketball season he will often not arrive at home until 10 p.m. He is up early to spend extra time in the gym or weight room or sometimes to tutor his fellow Navarre Raider students in math as a part of his commitment to the Navarre High National Honor Society. After school in the offseason, Hershany drives another hour to Pensacola to spend time in the gym working to further improve his game. Finally, after another 45 minutes on the road he returns home to begin doing homework that is a big part of the AP and honors courses.
Hershany is also trying to make history at Navarre High School. Bentley quietly turned around a basketball program at Navarre over the past four seasons. Hershany’s top priority for the upcoming basketball season is to bring a district championship home to Navarre and help his team and coach reach Lakeland, Florida, where the state championship playoffs take place. This past season they were within a few plays of a district title and qualified for the playoffs for only the third time in the school’s history. Hershany led them into the playoffs as a district runner-up and to an appearance at state powerhouse Lincoln High School. Hershany scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds, handed out four assists, and had three steals in a tightly contested game versus the Florida class 8A 2017 state runner-up, despite being the focus of the Lincoln High defensive game plan. This past season he became accustomed to receiving plenty of attention from his opponents, seeing a variety of defensive game plans geared to stop him, yet he led his team in scoring, defensive rebounding, assists, steals, free throw percentage, and charges taken.
Bentley emphasized that numbers alone cannot capture Hershany’s contributions to the team and role in the success they enjoyed.
“It’s like having another coach on the floor,” Bentley said.
Hershany possesses the traits you want in a point guard: toughness, intelligence, court vision, tremendous ball handling skills. But what sets him apart is that he is a rare combination guard who can score from anywhere on the floor. He has elite shooting ability from well beyond the 3-point line. He made 74 three-pointers last season while seeing box-and-one defenses or double-teams for the majority of the season. His scoring ability is so prolific that at 6’0” Hershany would play in the post during the course of the season for Bentley. Hershany is one of the best guards on the gulf coast and is deservedly garnering attention at the next level from several colleges including schools in the Ivy League and U.S. service academies.
Hershany’s long term goals include service to the nation and going to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon. These aspirations burn deep inside of Hershany and are the reason he embraces the arduous schedule he maintains. Hershany contends one of the greatest gifts his parents gave him was high expectations. He also believes his older brother, Nathan, who attends school and plays basketball at the United States Coast Guard Academy, significant influenced Hershany by setting a high bar for him. With his continued hard work and the support system of family, educators, and coaches, his future in basketball and beyond is bright. Hershany wants to remind people in his community, along the gulf coast, and across the nation that he’s a student and an athlete.
Written by: Taf Bentley
Photography by: Bay Design Photography