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Boulder certainly isn’t just a blip on the map.

It’s not necessarily an overflowing metropolis either. But in many ways, it might as well be to JoeHurlburt.

This month, the 6-foot-10 Hurlburt took the first few baby steps of his collegiate career in his initialsummer workouts with the Colorado Buffaloes. When Hurlburt arrived about a month ago, he foundhimself soaking in the environment a little intently on more than a few occasions.

Hurlburt’s hometown of Enderlin, North Dakota sports a population of about 1,000. For Hurlburt,moving on to CU has been very much like packing his bags to take his chances in the big city.


“I’m from a small town. Two gas stations,” Hurlburt said. “And now I’m here in Boulder with greatscenery and great people around. The people have been accepting and the guys on the team are great.”

Among the five newcomers expected to compete for rotation spots in the 2022-23 season — Hurlburt,fellow freshman RJ Smith, and three transfers — it is Hurlburt who has an opportunity to provide animmediate lift to a frontcourt hit heavily by attrition.

After Jabari Walker opted to remain in the NBA Draft and ultimately getting picked late in the second round(57th overall) by Portland last week, the Buffs were left facing a serious production void up front. Walkerwas CU’s leading scorer and the top rebounder in the Pac-12 Conference. Combine Walker’s departurewith the graduation of Evan Battey, who started the final 107 games of his career in a row and was theBuffs’ second-leading scorer and rebounder last year, and CU became a team in need of immediate helpup front.

Head coach Tad Boyle filled some of the rebounding void in the transfer portal. Former Princeton guardEthan Wright ranked fourth in the Ivy League last season with 6.9 rebounds per game. Yale transferJalen Gabbidon often played the four spot for the Bulldogs, and Boyle expressed the belief thatGabbidon will play bigger than his frame, even in the Pac-12.

Yet that frame is just 6-foot-5 for Gabbidon. And with Wright checking in at 6-foot-4, the 6-foot-10Hurlburt might be called upon immediately to give an undersized Buffs squad a dose of height inside insupport of 7-foot-1 Lawson Lovering.

Hurlburt is ranked 129th nationally in the 2022 recruiting class by 247Sports and is ranked as the No. 21center, though he projects as more of a stretch-four forward. With three-plus months remaining beforethe start of preseason practice, Hurlburt reports he is focused on the two areas typically at the top ofthe list for freshmen big men — building his strength and improving interior defense.

“It’s great. I’ve been waiting for this and it’s exciting,” Hurlburt said. “It’s good to be here and it’s a funopportunity, and I’m just looking forward to getting better. I definitely have to work on my body and getbetter on defense for sure. Those are two of the main things I’m focusing on before the season getsgoing.

“It’s just different, going from guarding high school guys to guarding guys like this. It’s something I haveto get used to and have get better at. But I’ll be working every day.”