HALFMOON – Kevin Huerter looked remarkably alert Monday for someone who recently flew back from Spain – and had a couple of unexpected flights to Sacramento and Las Vegas added to it.
The 2016 Shenendehowa graduate was at Impact Athletic Center, of which his family is part-owner, for his first Huerter Basketball Camps session, where kids from kindergarten to 12th grade tried to sharpen skills with the 6-foot-7 NBA swingman going from court to court giving encouragement.
Last Wednesday, Huerter was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Sacramento Kings for Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless and a future first-round pick. Selected as the 19th overall pick out of the University of Maryland in the 2018 NBA Draft, Huerter signed a four-year, $65 million contract extension last year. Huerter averaged 11.4 points per game in four seasons with Atlanta.
Huerter was by a pool in Barcelona and away from his phone when the trade happened. When he went over to check it, the volume of texts and calls he’d received was a sure sign.
“It’s the middle of the day in the States right now, obviously it’s around trade time,” Huerter said he remembered thinking to himself. “So my agent had called me and told me I was traded to Sac.
“I felt like my vacation ended there,” he added. “Obviously, a million things come over you when you hear that. So that was one of our last days. I couldn’t get back here fast enough. That flight went from [what was going to be] seven hours to feeling like it was 20 hours. It felt good to get everything settled.”
Kevin Huerter Basketball Camp (9 photos)
Huerter reported to Sacramento long enough to have physicals and meet some people before flying to Las Vegas, where some of his future teammates and Kings brass had gathered to watch the NBA Summer League games.
“It feels like the whole NBA’s out there,” Huerter said of Las Vegas. “You get to meet and see a lot of people you weren’t able to see during the course of the year. A lot of really good teammates that are in Sac, the coaching staff, it seems like we’re all headed in the right direction, on the same page, so I’m looking forward to it.”
In moving to the West Coast, Huerter admitted that it’s a little difficult knowing that most of his family and friends will watch his games taped the next morning instead of live – he said he didn’t consider west coast schools because of the distance when he was narrowing his college choice.
“But basketball-wise, I think I’m going to love it. Everyone on the team is kind of young. Obviously the organization hasn’t made the playoffs in, I believe it’s 16 years. It’s one of the first things I heard of, so it’s a drought we’re hoping to end. I think that everybody’s on the same page trying to do the right things to get there,” Huerter said.
The biggest thing he believes Sacramento is trying to do is get as many people who came from a winning culture on the team as possible. He pointed to head coach Mike Brown as the prime example. A former head coach with Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers, Brown spent the past six seasons as associate head coach of the Golden State Warriors, who won NBA titles in 2017, 2018 and 2022.
“He came from their offensive series, obviously just won a ring,” Huerter said of Brown. “Being around the personnel they have there and the championship atmosphere, the way their offense moves, I’m hoping he brings a lot of that to Sac.”
Huerter is looking forward to playing with teammates such as guard De’Aaron Fox, forward Harrison Barnes and center Domantas Sabonis.
But he intends to be a big part of the equation also. And it’s nice, he added, to feel wanted by Sacramento. He said the organization wants him to space the floor, be another ball-handler, get others involved and, of course, knock down shots. Coming in as a starter from a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons ago also helped.
“We were a five-seed and made that run,” Huerter said. “It’s something I don’t think many people thought we would do, and it’s kind of going to be something similar to what we have to do in Sac. Bring in as many guys to that team and that city that have won before and been around winning is what I think it takes to get over the hump.”
Huerter’s all-around game – he also averaged 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists with Atlanta – has been noticed.
Huerter was interviewed Saturday during ESPN’s broadcast of a summer league game between the Orlando Magic and the Kings, and reflected on the experience of being traded. Following the interview, ESPN announcers Mark Jones and Doris Burke discussed the transaction and Huerter’s reaction to it.
“How about that comment by Kevin Huerter, ‘I’ve had people tell me life in the NBA doesn’t start until you get traded,’ ” Burke said. “Like, no matter what, that has to hurt because it means you’re . . . in some way, not wanted.”
“And,” Jones said, “the flip side of that is somebody else does.”
Burke added that “a lot of guys use [getting traded] as momentum to sort of add dimensions to their game,” and complimented the all-around game of Huerter.
“I think people can think he’s just a shooter,” Burke said. “He’s more than that, unequivocally.”
Huerter is also looking forward to playing in front of a fan base in which the Kings are the only game in town.
“That was one of the first things I heard when I got traded, was how great the fans are,” Huerter said. “There’s no other sports team in Sac, relatively no big colleges in Sac, so it’s Kings as the first, second and third team people root for. If you win there, they’ll love you.”
Huerter mentioned how happy he is to run a camp of his own, and thought back to the multiple camps he attended growing up.
“There’s a million things out there, and honestly, I was looking forward to doing one of my own; give back to the community a little bit,” Huerter said. “To have six courts under one roof is awesome, [with] Impact being open about eight to 10 months now. I remember at Shen camp having to switch gyms. Obviously here you get to keep everybody together. It allows me to interact with them, bounce around from court to court, keeps everything organized and safe – helps a little bit with the paperwork, so it’s been really good.”
During his time at Shenendehowa, Huerter led the Plainsmen to the 2015 Class AA state championship before being named Mr. New York Basketball as a senior in 2016. Also in 2016, Huerter played outfield on the Plainsmen’s team that won the Class AA baseball state championship. Ian Anderson, now a starting pitcher for Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, was also a senior on that team.