Joe Hurlburt was barely past his freshman year of high school when his play at a prep camp made an impression on the Colorado coaching staff.
That staff, in turn, made an impression on Hurlburt when Buffaloes assistant coach Mike Rohn journeyed to the town of Enderlin in southeast North Dakota (population: 886) to watch Hurlburt play. As Hurlburt grew into his current 6-foot-10 frame and his skills expanded, attention turned toward Enderlin from far more sources than head coach Tad Boyle’s staff in Boulder.
In this case, though, that first impression became a lasting one. In April, while the CU men’s basketball program still was putting the finishing touches on a nationally-ranked 2021 recruiting class, Hurlburt became the first prospect to pledge a verbal commitment to the Buffs for the 2022 class.
“They were my first big offer, so I kind of felt a loyalty factor there,” Hurlburt said. “I love Boulder. It’s a great opportunity to play in the Pac-12. Coach Rohn came back up to Enderlin and saw me work out, and we’ve stayed in touch since then.
“I just kind of had a gut feeling, and I’ve had it for a long time. Colorado has always been my number one. Then I watched how well they did this year. The way that the players talk about the program, the impression I’ve been able to get from the coaches, it just seems like the place for me. I didn’t feel the need to wait (to commit) any longer.”
Although Hurlburt’s little corner of the world is tucked about 60 miles southwest of Fargo, he owns a lifelong affinity with Colorado, having been a frequent visitor to his aunt’s house in Vail for skiing trips. While CU was the first major conference to offer Hurlburt, he ultimately chose the Buffs over other regional power conference programs like Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State, and Minnesota.
Hurlburt noted CU boasts a strong reputation in his neck of the woods thanks to the solid career of another native of North Dakota, Austin Dufault, who was recruited by former CU coach Jeff Bzdelik but who ended his career under Boyle as a 1,000-point scorer. Last week, Hurlburt won North Dakota’s Gatorade Player of the Year, and 247Sports.com has the four-star prospect ranked as the 80th overall recruit in the nation for the 2022 class. He is set to be the fifth four-star recruit over three recruiting classes for the Buffs, along with Nique Clifford, Quincy Allen, Lawson Lovering, and KJ Simpson.
While Hurlburt remains a year away from setting foot on campus, he already is eager to join a young core set to debut in 2021-22 with a freshman group ranked as the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation by 247Sports. Assuming returning senior starters Evan Battey and Eli Parquet do not use their extra year of eligibility, the Buffs still will have at least two spots to fill around Hurlburt in the 2022 class.
“I think it’s going to be really fun just having a chance to compete and hopefully make NCAA Tournaments and go far,” Hurlburt said. “Competing for Pac-12 titles and stuff like that, that’s definitely the goal right now. It’s really nice with the young guys we have to get it all put together. I’m definitely working on my body for the physicality and the pace of the Pac-12. It’s going to be a big difference compared to what I’m used to.”