Huerter trying out for USA Basketball again

Kevin Huerter hopes to make the USA Basketball U19 team, after playing for the U18 team last year.
Kevin Huerter hopes to make the USA Basketball U19 team, after playing for the U18 team last year.

Offseason? What offseason?

Coming off a stellar freshman campaign for the University of Maryland men’s basketball team, Kevin Huerter isn’t finding it difficult to keep himself occupied this summer. In his first collegiate offseason, the former Shenendehowa High School star has rarely been home, instead spending most of his time on campus in Maryland training with his teammates. The remaking of his body is a process that continues. He’s taking a couple academic courses, too.  

Oh — and he’s a top candidate to represent his country for the second year in a row. 

After playing on the USA Basketball U18 team last summer in Chile, Huerter is in the running for this year’s U19 squad. He tries out for this year’s team, which will play in the FIBA U19 World Cup this July  in Egypt, from Sunday through Tuesday. Last summer, Huerter won a gold medal and averaged 6.8 points per game with USA Basketball.

“I know what to expect,” Huerter said of this year’s tryouts, which take place at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I know what the people there want from me to make the team and everything about how it works.”

In general, what basketball evaluators — in this case, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, the U19 team’s head coach — covet most from Huerter is his deft shooting touch. Huerter, who led Shenendehowa to a state title in 2015 and swept New York’s player of the year awards in 2016, showed plenty of that in his rookie season with the Terrapins. Huerter made 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers as a college freshman, a campaign during which he started all 33 games for Maryland, averaged 9.3 points per game and scored at least 10 points in 14 games. He scored a career-high 26 points in a game against Nebraska. 

While Huerter hopes to offer his shooting touch for USA Basketball, his summer is also about continuing to round out his game and — perhaps most importantly — filling out his frame. This summer, Huerter lifts with his teammates three time per week, and gets in an additional two lifts on his own. He’s remade his diet since high school, too, cutting out all fast food and sweets.

“My whole lifestyle has honestly changed,” said Huerter, a 6-foot-7 perimeter player who is nearing 200 pounds, approximately 25 more than he weighed at the start of his senior year of high school. 

Huerter briefly came home to Clifton Park after his basketball season ended in the NCAA Tournament and again after his spring semester ended. The rest of the time, though, he’s stayed at school and has enjoyed taking advantage of his proximity to Washington, D.C. 

Time out with teammates is fun, he said, even if traveling in such a pack attracts attention from hoops fans. 

“You get a couple looks here and there,” Huerter said. “You walk by and you feel eyes kind of turn with you, and there’s some pictures — but it’s not too much.”

Meanwhile, one of Huerter’s friends from his basketball travels is getting his fair share of attention at the moment. During his time with USA Basketball last summer, Huerter was roommates for several weeks with Markelle Fultz, who is widely projected as the No. 1 pick in this upcoming Thursday’s NBA draft.

“Honestly, at the time, he had a lot of national-level stuff you couldn’t teach. He’d do stuff and it was eye-opening,” Huerter said of Fultz, who played for Washington last season. “You knew he was going to be a lottery pick.”

One of Huerter’s teammates this past season at Maryland, Melo Trimble, is a possible second-round pick in this year’s draft. The former Plainsmen star said his relationships with guys attempting to reach the next level of competition has changed how he watches the sport.

“I’ll always be a fan of the game,” Huerter said, “but obviously having more of a personal connection with some of the people you see on TV makes it different.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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