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Joe Hurlburt, RJ Smith make it official with CU Buffs men’s basketball

Young core adds two pieces with scholarship still open for spring

BOULDER, CO - October 19, 2021:  Head men's basketball coach, Tad Boyle, talks to reporters during the University of Colorado Boulder's men's basketball media day. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – October 19, 2021: Head men’s basketball coach, Tad Boyle, talks to reporters during the University of Colorado Boulder’s men’s basketball media day. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

An already bright-looking future for the Colorado men’s basketball team added a little luster on Wednesday.

Head coach Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes added reinforcements to the program’s young core on national signing day, receiving national letters of intent from two commits that perhaps epitomize CU’s recruiting approach in four-star forward Joe Hurlburt and under-the-radar guard RJ Smith.

Hurlburt and Smith will provide depth behind a 2021 recruiting class ranked as the top in the Pac-12 Conference. CU’s roster currently is configured so that the Buffs expect to lose only two players, seniors Evan Battey and Elijah Parquet, barring any additional spring defections.

“I feel really good about where we’re at and the young kids we have,” Boyle said. “It’s now our job as coaches to make sure we’re building the guys we have in our program, because this is our future.”

Boyle said he and his staff became enamored with Smith, a 6-foot-4 guard out of La Verne, Calif., shortly after being allowed to resume off-campus recruiting in June when the NCAA lifted its COVID traveling restrictions. Smith has emerged as such a late bloomer that he doesn’t even have a star rating at, but he fits the mold of under-the-radar wings who have developed and thrived at CU like George King, Elijah Parquet, and Jabari Walker.

“RJ is a good player,” Boyle said. “I always say there’s two types of players, over-recruited and under-recruited. I really think he was an under-recruited guy for his upside and skill level. He’s a multi-faceted guard. He can shoot it, he’s got a good feel for the game, he can impact a game in a lot of different ways. He fits the mold of what we’re looking for.”

Hurlburt might hail from a more under-the-radar locale in Enderlin, North Dakota, but his game has garnered more attention, with rating him as a four-star prospect and the No. 121-ranked recruit in the nation. The 6-foot-10 Hurlburt fits the mold of a stretch-four able to mix it up inside while stretching defenses along the perimeter.

“It was crazy to put the pen to the paper and have it be real,” Hurlburt said. “You always dream of it, and now it’s finally here. The development at Colorado, they turn guys into monsters. Hopefully they’ll be able to do that with me, and excited to have them coach me.”

Boyle actually had three open slots available for the 2022 recruiting class following the abrupt loss over the summer of Western Carolina transfer Mason Faulkner, who bolted for Louisville. Boyle said the plan is to take that scholarship into the spring cycle and, given how crucial finding talent in the transfer portal has become in college basketball, that approach could become the norm.

“When you look at your roster in the spring, are you going to have movement? Are you not going to have movement?” Boyle said. “If you don’t have movement, you’ve got a scholarship to work with. If you do have movement, you might have multiple ones. Not using all 13 isn’t the end of the world, as long as the 11 or 12 guys you have on scholarship are healthy and good enough to give you a chance to compete at the level you need to compete at.”

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