Jan. 20—EVANSTON, Ill. — Gus Hurlburt became one of one when he walked onto the campus of Northwestern University (Ill.) in the fall of 2022.
Out of the 484 student-athletes at Northwestern, Hurlburt, who is a sophomore, is the only one from North Dakota.
"I'm the only person in my class at Northwestern from North Dakota," Hurlburt said. "So, there aren't too many people like me. My teammates joke around about it, the first question is 'What is there to do in North Dakota?' That's definitely the first question. So I've definitely talked to them about North Dakota and told them a little bit about it."
When he graduated from Enderlin High School, Hurlburt enrolled at Northwestern as a preferred walk-on on the men's basketball team. Hurlburt said during a recruiting visit to the school he was offered a walk-on spot and he immediately accepted the offer.
"Honestly, I would say it was my dream school growing up," Hurlburt said. "You play in the Big Ten and then it's a top 10 school in the country, and it's in Chicago. It's not too far from home, it's still in the Midwest. I think it's so great in so many areas, academics, athletics and it's in the Midwest as well."
When he thinks about the differences between practice with the Eagles and with the Wildcats, he said the players at Northwestern are bigger and stronger than those he played against in high school. Despite the obvious differences between living in Enderlin and in Evanston, Hurlburt said he enjoys it.
"Obviously it's very different. We are in Evanston, it's like 13 miles north of Chicago, it's more of a suburb," Hurlburt said. "It's not like you're right in the city, which is kind of nice. I think it would've been kind of hard if I was in downtown Chicago, that'd be a really big adjustment. That's a good bridge, you have access to Chicago. Obviously, it's very different but I've always wanted to live in a city, I've always liked that. ... I've enjoyed every part of that."
Hurlburt said he grew up being a fan of the Wildcats because the school offers a mix of great academics and high-level basketball. According to the US News and World Report 2024 Best National University Rankings, Northwestern is in a three-way tie for ninth.
While he did not play during his freshman year, Hurlburt made his first career appearance on Dec. 10 against the University of Detroit Mercy. Hurlburt played two minutes and made his only shot attempt. Hurlburt said the shot felt good out of his hand but actually seeing it go through the hoop was an exciting feeling.
"There were a little bit of nerves, but it was mostly excitement," Hurlburt said. "It was fun to finally get on the court. It felt great."
When the shot went in, his teammates on the bench erupted in excitement.
"One of my teammates, Nick, Nick Martinelli, he gave me a high-five right away," Hurlburt said. "I could see the reactions, I saw the video after too and everyone was jumping up and stuff. Everyone was pretty happy for me."
The reactions around North Dakota to his first career points have been widespread across social media. The tweet from Enderlin Basketball with a video of his first career points has over 12,000 views as of Jan. 18.
Hurlburt said he wasn't surprised to not appear in a game last season.
The game against the Titans was not his only career appearance as he also played one minute against the then No. 9-ranked University of Illinois on Jan. 2. While he said he was excited to get into the game against the Illini it was not as special as the appearance against the Titans.
"Unfortunately we lost, it was a little bit different," Hurlburt said. "I would've hoped to have been up. It's more in the blowout games either way. You never know whether or not you get in. But, obviously would've hoped that we were up. It was fine. Obviously, we would've hoped to have won that game. That was less exciting because obviously winning is the most important thing."
As of Jan. 9, Hurlburt said the Wildcats coaching staff has not told him if he has a chance to be a scholarship player. During his career, Hurlburt has been playing for Wildcats head coach Chris Collins, who has a 168-166 record as of Jan. 18.
"It's been great," Hurlburt said. "He's an amazing coach and I'm super thankful for the opportunity to play for him."
When he thinks about his first year and a half as a Wildcat, Hurlburt said the memories that stick out are the big upsets that he's been a part of and going to legendary college basketball arenas.
"Recently, it was fun to get my first bucket in the first game that I've played," Hurlburt said. "So, that was fun. I would say beating Purdue (University) the last two years, that was really fun, both at home, the court storms, that sort of thing. It was amazing and then I would say other than that, going on the road, getting to experience the other Big Ten arenas and stuff, Michigan State (University), Indiana (University Bloomington), the atmospheres are incredible. It's nice to get to travel around and see different things. We played in the Phoenix Suns arena this year, so it was just the travel is interesting too."
Hurlburt is currently an economics major at the university, which he said he is studying because of his interest in finance. Hurlburt said when he graduates he wants to enter into the investment banking or private equity fields. This quarter, Hurlburt said he is taking a statistics class for economics and required classes.
"I think it's an interesting career path," Hurlburt said. "I've always been a numbers guy. I think the job outlook is pretty bright and being really close to Chicago, it's a great city for finance. So, I really like that too."
Hurlburt said his advice to other Class B athletes who want to play at the highest level of college basketball would be to force coaches to pay attention to them.
"I would just say play AAU (amateur athletic union), use Twitter to try to get your highlights out there," Hurlburt said. "You can try to email coaches and try to get noticed, go to recruiting events. Those are some things, AAU, recruiting events, try to get your name out there. You can be a great player but if nobody knows who you are, you'll never get noticed."