LARAMIE – While he might be the first 7-footer to don a University of Wyoming basketball uniform since 2009-10, Nate Barnhart isn’t prepping for his role like you might think.

The freshman from Lenexa, Kansas has only been on campus for a few weeks. But it has already been a crash course in the unfamiliar. Barnhart says he has worked exclusively with the wing players on the perimeter, not with the muscle down low like freshman Graham Ike.

Barnhart’s size is tantalizing – he’s the first player of his height on a Cowboys roster since Boubacar Sylla – but he’s preparing to be used like redshirt junior forward Hunter Thompson.

“If I’m open, I can shoot the 3,” Barnhart said. “I’ve only been working the wings.

“I also did some stuff on the outside on the perimeter (in high school) … but we didn’t do as much skill work.”

It’s been a work in progress for Barnhart, who was an honorable mention all-state selection for the 2020-21 season. He’s doing drills he hasn’t traditionally done, and it wasn’t until recently he nailed some of the footwork that’s being asked of him.

Not everyone would want to morph their game and be uncomfortable, particularly as a young player simultaneously learning how to become a college student. But that’s what Barnhart signed up for. He knew full well his game was going to change when he was recruited by UW coach Jeff Linder. Barnhart wants that type of challenge.

“I just trust all the coaches,” Barnhart said. “I’m glad that they’re allowing me (to work with the wings) and they’re trusting me.”

Acclimating to the pace of the college game has been difficult, as well. Coming from De Soto High and its enrollment of less than 1,000, to say practicing against Division I athletes has been eye-opening for Barnhart would be an understatement.

It’s also been a transition being away from home for the first time, though coming to another relatively small town in Laramie has helped ease that part of the equation.

“I love it up here. I love the small-town campus feel,” Barnhart said. “I went to Walmart, and some dude asked me if I played on a basketball team. He gave me a high five.”

Barnhart said he isn’t sure what playing time will look like during his rookie campaign, given the amount of talent and depth returning at all spots on the court. He is ready for whatever role comes his way, and is willing to bide his time if that’s what the team needs.

Rest assured, however, that he’ll also be ready if his name is called sooner than later.

“I’m definitely prepared to wait around. I hope that my chance comes (this season),” Barnhart said. “But I know that I’m still a freshman, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Michael Katz covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at mkatz@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @michaellkatz.

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