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For Former Terp Kevin Huerter, Rookie Season With Hawks A Whirlwind

March 14, 2019
At this time last year, Kevin Huerter was preparing for the Big Ten men's basketball tournament. 

Huerter was a 19-year-old shooting guard on a Maryland team that wouldn't receive a postseason tournament invite. Though he was in the midst of a standout individual season -- he was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection -- few could have imagined where he would be March 4, 2019.

After the final buzzer sounded during the Atlanta Hawks' one-point defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, Huerter exchanged jerseys with Dwyane Wade, a future Hall of Famer and Huerter's childhood icon.

"That type of moment -- being a kid and idolizing him, growing up watching him and then getting the opportunity -- I think the coolest thing for me was playing against him," Huerter said on Glenn Clark Radio March 13. "I think there are a lot of things in my career that I think, when I stop playing, I'll be able to look back and appreciate a lot more than I have been able to up to this point."

Huerter, a first-round pick in last summer's NBA Draft, came away from the exchange with more than just Wade's jersey.

"He just said that he's watched me progress this whole year and he knew I idolized him growing up," Huerter said. "He said that he really loved my game, and to stay healthy and just keep doing what I'm doing."

However, Wade isn't the most grizzled veteran Huerter has rubbed shoulders with during his rookie season. That would be his teammate -- and future Hall of Famer -- Vince Carter. The 42-year old debuted shortly after Huerter was born in 1998. Carter made eight straight All-Star teams from 2000-2007 and led the league in scoring in 2000-01.

"Someone asked me who is the coolest person that I've played against this year, and I was like, 'Well I get to play against Vince Carter every day,'" Huerter said. "It's become so normal for him to be around, but you still have to stop and realize -- it's Vince Carter."

Now in his 20th season playing in the NBA, Carter has picked up a thing or two on staying healthy and fresh. Huerter has become the benefactor of Carter's wealth of knowledge and experience.

"It's just such a long season. You've got to find ways to take care of your body, you've got to find ways to keep everything fresh," Huerter said. "He's joking with young guys, and when he needs to get serious he gets serious. You kind of learn the professionalism that comes with him but at the same time you have to have fun with what we're doing."

Playing with the Hawks has also afforded Huerter the opportunity to play alongside fellow Terp Alex Len. Like Huerter, Len played two seasons in College Park, Md., before heading to the NBA, and left his mark on the program. Huerter quickly learned of Len's work ethic from Maryland's strength and conditioning coach, Kyle Tarp.

"He just works really hard, and that doesn't change now. … He's another guy that I can just see how he carries himself," Huerter said of Len.

Huerter (9.5 points per game) and Len (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds) are having productive seasons for the Hawks, who currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference. However, with the young core of Huerter (20 years old), Trae Young (20) and John Collins (21) in place, it might not be long before the Hawks are once again a force in the league.

The future may be approaching fast for Huerter and the Hawks, and he hopes that playing against his childhood icon becomes just one of a laundry list of memorable moments throughout his career.

"At some point it will all kind of kick in," he said. "But that's not the only thing in my career that I'll hopefully be able to look back on."

To hear more from Huerter listen to the full interview here:



Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images