The Atlanta Hawks selected Maryland men’s basketball guard Kevin Huerter with the 19th pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday, making him the first Terp to go in the first round since 2013.
Over two years in College Park, Huerter averaged 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The three-point shooting and athleticism he displayed during his college career and at the combine made him a coveted professional prospect. Huerter shot 41.7 percent from long range as a sophomore, and at 6-foot-7 he has the ability to defend multiple positions.
The Clifton Park, New York, native entered the draft process without a great deal of fanfare, but his combine performance convinced many analysts he was a first-round pick.
Huerter worked out with the Hawks following the combine. While he said he didn’t have his best shooting performance in the workout, he received encouragement from the team’s coaches, who told him to not get too emotional and keep his focus on the next shot.
“I knew then they believed in me,” Huerter said in a conference call after he was picked Thursday night.
“Seeing him play at the combine really opened some eyes,” ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz said on a conference call earlier this week. “Seeing him with other players who can really play, seeing his passing ability, seeing his size and shooting is really a perfect fit.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported June 13 that Huerter underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right hand, which is expected to keep him off the court for two months. He suffered the injury late in the Maryland season, and it never completely healed throughout the draft process.
Huerter said he wanted to avoid surgery at first, but after it kept bothering him during the workout process, he made the decision to go under the knife. This is the first time an injury has required him to miss a significant period of time since he broke his ankle in fifth grade, Huerter said.
Huerter is Maryland’s 19th first-round pick and the first since Alex Len went fifth overall in 2013. He is the first first-rounder to be recruited by Mark Turgeon, who came to Maryland in 2011.
“It’s hard for teams to find shooting,” ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks said on the conference call. “To find value in the draft, if it’s in the 20s, on a player that’s going to make $2 million for the next four years and you’ve got him on a controllable contract — I think that outweighs a team that wants to go out and spend $5 or $6 million on a veteran shooter.”
Huerter will join reigning NCAA Division I scoring and assists leader Trae Young in Atlanta. Young, a point guard, was selected with the fifth overall pick of the draft. It won’t be their first experience as teammates, though — they played together on the United States under-18 men’s basketball team in 2016, winning a gold medal in the FIBA America tournament in Chile.
“He’s a dynamic scorer, someone who can put up big numbers really quick,” Huerter said. “I look forward to playing with him.”
Arya Hodjat contributed to this report.