Washington

How a growth spurt turned Kevin Huerter into an NBA player

Washington
Kevin Huerter in his final game at Maryland in 2018

Former Maryland Terrapin Kevin Huerter had a weekend to remember thanks to his 27-point outburst in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.

Huerter's career night caught the eye of fans across the country, including his college coach, Mark Turgeon.

If you ask Turgeon, however, the record-setting performance wasn't a surprise. Not after seeing Huerter step up repeatedly at Maryland.

"What he did in that game didn’t surprise me at all," Turgeon told NBC Sports Washington. "Kevin’s mentally tough, he loves the big moment so it didn’t surprise me. I was surprised when he missed his free throw, to be honest with you...it’s just great to see. I’m so happy for him, whenever your former players do well it’s fantastic."

Turgeon was also sure to remind fans that while casual observers might not be as familiar with his game, there's a reason Huerter was taken with a top-20 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

"He might be underrated to the common fan but not to the players in the NBA. I think he’s well-respected, you can tell by the way they approach him and talk to him. Especially the players on his team," Turgeon said. "He never takes a play off mentally. That’s what makes him who he is."

 

Still, Turgeon recognizes just how far along Huerter has come since his college days. Thought of as purely a sharpshooter, Huerter has made great strides in his defensive ability over the years. And he's had a preternatural passing vision from day one.

All of that came together in Game 7.

"From day one with us to where he is now, every year he’s gotten better. The shooting’s always been there, but where he’s gotten better is the stepback three, the quick footwork coming off ball screens and getting back to a three-point shot, which is really hard footwork. He’s gotten better at that. He’s really worked on that, and it's great to see. And then his passing, he’s always had this point guard skill and vision, and he did that for us."

Of course, for all of Huerter's hard work and natural skillset, one key ingredient for his NBA career came a little bit later.

"When I started recruiting him he wasn’t being highly recruited. We offered him a scholarship, he ended up being highly recruited but Kevin wasn’t supposed to be a quote-unquote NBA player," Turgeon recalled. "When I first offered him a scholarship he was about 6'4", and now he’s almost 6'8", so he grew a lot from age 17 to now 22 and that really is what made him an NBA player is that size. At 6'4" it would have been a little bit tough...He’s just a humble, smart kid. His parents did a great job raising him. Going from a non-NBA player to an NBA player in two years and growing from 6'4" to 6'8" is really what changed his life."