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Northwestern men’s basketball previews 2023-24: Reserves

With the top nine in the rotation basically set, here’s some players who will be key in providing depth.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Northwestern vs UCLA Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There is college basketball next month. The people rejoice. We now continue our preseason coverage of Wildcats basketball by taking a look at the reserves for the men’s basketball team.

F Blake Barkley

One of three first years on the squad this season, Barkley is a 6-foot-7 forward from Morgantown, West Virginia. During his junior season of high school, Barkley earned OVAC First Team All-Conference honors before transferring to Putnam Science Academy. While on the Adidas 3SSB circuit in the spring and summer of 2022, Barkley averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. A three-star on, he also received offers from Akron and Northern Illinois, among other schools, but committed to Northwestern less than two weeks after he visited last September. Barkley’s length could be useful in the second or third rotation this year.

G Jordan Clayton

Clayton also hails from the East Coast, and played his high school basketball at Bradford Christian Academy in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The three-star prospect was ranked as the third-best player in Massachusetts by 247Sports, partially thanks to his 12 points and five assists per game as a junior. Clayton also saw lots of success on the AAU circuit, helping his Mass Rivals team to a 15-4 record in the Adidas 3SSSB class. Clayton was the first commit of the Northwestern class of 2027, signing a letter of intent and verbally committing in August 12 of last year. Northwestern won out over Cal, UMass and Stephen F. Austin, as well as several other schools.

F Gus Hurlburt

Hurlburt hails from Enderlin, South Dakota, and basketball is in his blood. His aunt, Cindy Haugejorde, is still the all-time leading rebounder at the University of Iowa with 1,067 rebounds over her collegiate career. His mother Sonja played basketball at the University of San Francisco, and his twin brother Joe currently plays at Colorado. Hurlburt was a preferred walk-on commit after receiving offers from mostly Division III schools and mid-major Division I schools. While his brother was more heavily recruited, Gus had an excellent high school career, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game in a senior year that earned him a spot on the North Dakota All-State Second Team. Hurlburt did not see action last year, but with Robbie Beran and Tydus Verhoeven departing, there’s a chance for the big man to get lots of action at power forward.

G Blake Smith

Smith was a deep bench player last year, appearing in three games and playing in five total minutes in his freshman season. Smith played high school basketball in Pennsylvania, and his basketball roots are firmly planted in the East Coast; his father Larry walked on at North Carolina, and played alongside current UNC head coach Hubert Davis. Smith’s best game by far came in the win over Chicago State on Nov. 7, 2022. He garnered both his first career points and first career rebound in his singular minute of action, hitting the only shot (so far) of his collegiate career. Smith also played two minutes in both the DePaul and UIC contests last season, but did not put up any other stats. If Smith can put on a bit more weight (he’s listed at 6-foot-6, as tall as Brooks Barnhizer, but also 40 pounds lighter), then he may get some chances to fill the void left by Chase Audige and Julian Roper II.

G Parker Strauss

There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-3 point guard, the final first-year on the Wildcats’ roster. While Northwestern was his only Power Six offer (other schools to offer him included Colorado State and Wyoming), Strauss has the chance to be a difference maker immediately. His defensive instincts are obvious: 2.8 steals per game as a senior after 2.9 steals per game as a junior. Strauss is a versatile guard who could probably play both guard spots — he led his high school team in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game in his junior year and led them to a Division 2A quarterfinal berth in the California state playoffs. As a senior, he averaged 11.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, and his team made it to the CIF Division II title game. Strauss also set the school record for the 1,600 meter relay while participating in track and field. As with Smith, Strauss could have a chance to become the Wildcats’ fifth guard.