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Kevin Huerter’s rapid rise to becoming a first-round pick is complete

After entering the draft expecting to return, Huerter became Maryland’s highest pick in half a decade.

Xavier v Maryland Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kevin Huerter is officially Maryland’s highest NBA Draft selection since 2013. He was taken in the first round at No. 19 overall by the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s been half a decade since the Terps had a first-round selection, and Huerter also becomes Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon’s third first-rounder of his coaching career.

No one expected Huerter to go this high.

This isn’t what Huerter expected his spring would look like just months ago. He, along with teammates Justin Jackson and Bruno Fernando, received an invite to the draft combine and was one of the top beneficiaries of the event. By posting a 38-inch vertical and impressing in both drill situations and the 5-on-5 scrimmage, Huerter played himself into the first-round conversation.

After the first day in Chicago, it was reported that even with a first-round guarantee may not be enough to keep him in the draft; Huerter loved College Park. In a way, his combine performance forced his own hand. By the early entrant deadline, Huerter couldn’t refuse guaranteed millions. The decision paid off.

When Huerter first committed to Maryland, he had grown to 6’5 after being recruited as a 6’3 guard. He’d grow again to 6’7 by the time he got to school. In a way, his meteoric spring mimicked his physical growth during his recruitment. When he entered, he was looked at as a second round pick, but his combine forced teams to take a second look at the tape.

Entering Maryland as a trio of four-stars that included Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jackson, Huerter was the most lowkey of the three. He meshed seamlessly with the other freshmen and former star guard Melo Trimble as the team’s Swiss Army knife, then took his game to another level his sophomore year.

Huerter will be an elite shooter at the next level.

In 65 games at Maryland, Huerter displayed an NBA-ready skill set, and he’s one the best shooters in this draft class. Capable of pulling up from almost anywhere with a quick trigger, there were times he was the Terps only offense last season after Jackson was shut down.

He averaged two more shots in his sophomore year, upping his attempts from 8.0 to 10.1 per game, but did so efficiently, going from 3.4 makes in year one to 5.1 a night in year two. His scoring average jumped from 9.3 to 14.8 points per game. After hitting 37.1 percent of his triples his freshman year, he managed to become an even more lethal marksman and hit 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts.

While his greatest asset is his shooting, what enamored scouts at the combine was how Huerter can score within the flow of an offense. He has poise and confidence at age 19, along some growing playmaking skills. At his floor, Huerter should turn into a shooter at the next level, but he has the defensive skills and budding playmaking skills to be much more.

After declining to take a “green room” invitation, Huerter watched from a country club a couple hours away with his Turgeon, a couple teammates, family and friends. He’s still recovering from a surgery that will keep him out for two months, including Summer League in July, but he’ll be healthy long before the season. It’s a life-changing night for Huerter, the culmination of a spring of hard work.