Among the players set to return for the Colorado men’s basketball team, the loss of Lawson Lovering to the transfer portal has likely impacted Joe Hurlburt the most.
Asked recently if an already-critical offseason for the 6-foot-11 freshman forward coming off a redshirt season became even more so with Lovering’s decision, Boyle was straightforward in his response.
“It definitely did.”
And so it might have been reassuring to Boyle, and Buffs fans as well, to witness a scene that unfolded last week. As the Sweet 16-bound CU women’s team hit the CU Events Center floor to begin practice and meet the media during its one-day layover between rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Hurlburt, who had been working out alone on the court, was forced to vacate the premises.
After devoting an entire season to putting in the work, Hurlburt was making sure to get a little more in before spring break.
“Everybody progresses at their own rate,” Boyle said. “Some guys progress faster than others. Big guys, it takes them a little longer to adjust to the college game. Joe had a good redshirt year. I met with him (last week). He feels a lot more confident in his physical abilities, and I think his mental abilities took a huge step forward. Because it was an adjustment going from North Dakota high school basketball to the Pac-12.
“He made some great strides this year and it’s a critical offseason for him. And even more so now with Lawson’s decision.”
As Hurlburt continues to work toward a possible rotation spot next year, the loss of Lovering, Nique Clifford and Quincy Allen leaves Boyle with two open scholarships to work with this spring. With Hurlburt and incoming 6-foot-10 freshman Assane Diop currently slated to be the only true post players on the 2023-24 roster, Boyle confirmed another frontcourt addition is a spring priority.
“Obviously, we need to sign a big,” Boyle said. “Joe Hurlburt’s coming off a redshirt. Tristan (da Silva) can play the five in a pinch, but that’s not his natural position and we don’t want him to be a permanent five-man. We need to sign a post player. Having coached Lawson now for two years and having coached Evan Battey for five, we’re going to look at all avenues. That position most likely will be a transfer portal kid. Because we need somebody who can come in and play right away. That’s the immediate concern.”
The Buffs will have flexibility with the other slot, given that RJ Smith, also coming off a redshirt year as a freshman, and incoming freshman Courtney Anderson could be in the mix at the two-guard following the departure of Clifford and the uncertain status of Javon Ruffin’s knee. And, of course, rounding out the incoming class will be Cody Williams, the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2023 class (per 247Sports) who on Tuesday became the first CU recruit since David Harrison in 2001 to play in the McDonald’s All-American game.
“The other (scholarship), you either put it in your pocket, or you take the best available player you can get,” Boyle said. “You can get picky with that one. I would say shooting is a priority, because that’s something we didn’t do a great job of this year. We would like to get some shooting, and hopefully a guy with size. “