By Mike Blackerby
Ty Hurst looks in the mirror and likes what he sees.
Translated, the mature-beyond-his-years Carter High School basketball standout is confident in his own skin.
Just spend a few minutes talking to the upbeat and positive Hurst and you walk away with a renewed sense of optimism and hope for young people.
It would have been so easy for him to turn out differently.
Hurst is bald and has no eyebrows or body hair.
He has alopecia universalis, an extremely rare condition characterized by the total loss of hair on the scalp and body. Less than 200,000 people in the United States have the disease.
It’s hard enough navigating the difficult teen years.
Imagine doing it bald.
Hurst said he has learned to deal with the ribbing and teasing, both on and off the court, as he has gotten older.
“When I was younger, like in elementary school, I had a little problem with it,” said Hurst.
“When I got to middle school and high school, it didn’t faze me.”
Hurst, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound shooting guard who leads the Hornets in scoring at 16.5 point per game, said he still routinely hears taunts from opposing fans and players.
“I’ve heard everything,” he said. “A lot of people call me ‘Charlie Brown.’ I think it’s kind of funny now. I’m just out there playing basketball.”
Carter coach Spencer Beaty said the name calling usually backfires.
“Here’s the advice I tell most people,” said Beaty. “When you do that (call Hurst names), all you’re doing is motivating him. It doesn’t faze him. He just says, ‘you make fun of me and I’m gonna drop 25 (points) on you.’”
Beaty said Hurst lets his play on the court do his talking.
“It’s nice to have a 6-2 wing player that can shoot the 3, get to the rack or pull up for a jumper.”
Hurst said he likes all phases of playing offense.
“I shoot it at all three levels,” Hurst explained.
“I like to attack and get to the rim and create for others, I can shoot from beyond the arc and I have a midrange game.”
Beaty said Hurst can do a lot more than just score. He also averages five rebounds and is among the team leaders in assists and steals.
More than anything, he brings a work ethic that is second to none.
“Ty has put his heart and life into the game of basketball,” offered Beaty.
“You don’t ever have to worry about his effort, whether it’s in practice or in a game.”
Hurst’s distinctive look follows him to gyms around East Tennessee.
Like former University of Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has alopecia areata, Hurst doesn’t shy away from talking about his disease.
He said it’s just not relevant.
“I don’t go around wearing ball caps,” said Hurst with a laugh.
Growing up, Hurst considered Dobbs a role model.
Dobbs has a milder and more common version of alopecia that causes patches of hair loss rather than entire areas being bald.
“He showed you can still go out and perform at the highest level,” said Hurst.
As good a basketball player Hurst is, Beaty said he’s a role model for any young person who faces adversity in their life.
“Ty is a phenomenal young man,” said Beaty.
“He’s a great young man who comes from a great family. These kids like Ty, with their great stories, always seem to be kids who didn’t have silver spoons in their mouths. I’m glad I’m on his team.”