Kevin Huerter Working Hard, Staying Focused While NBA is Postponed

By Ben Stinar
Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards / Will Newton/Getty Images
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Nearly two months have passed since Rudy Gobert's positive test for COVID-19 essentially shut down the NBA. March 11th was the last time Kevin Huerter and the Atlanta Hawks took the floor for an NBA game.

"Travis [Schlenk] had been telling us once one team gets shut down, everybody gets shut down," Huerter told The Big Lead.

The Hawks learned of Gobert's positive test during halftime of the Knicks game and knew that meant the season would likely be on hold by the end of the game. Afterwards, the team was informed by Schlenk and team owner Tony Ressler that they should not come into the team facility for the next two days. After that, there were informal workouts allowed that weekend that the entire team showed up to, but come Monday, their practice facility was officially shut down.

In the meantime, Huerter stayed in Atlanta for a week to see if the facility would reopen. But as the days passed and no timetable was given for a return, he decided to fly home to Albany, New York, to stay at his parents' house.

"I put on masks, I put on gloves, and I was one of maybe twenty people on my flight up to Albany," he said.

Huerter hadn't stayed at the house for an extended time in four years after his two years at University of Maryland and a season and a half of NBA life. Right now, even his car is in Atlanta, so if he needs a ride, he has to drive one of his parent's cars. Living back at home is a weird feeling, but he is happy with the situation.

"I know that it's best for me," Huerter said. "I have a lot of equipment here just growing up with it and having here things that I know can get good workouts in."

The 6'7" sharpshooter sticks to a fixed routine of working out in the mornings around 10:30, FaceTiming the Hawks' strength coaches. In the afternoon, he will do his basketball work on the driveway.

"I put myself through a lot of the same stuff we do with the Hawks," he said.

As expected, Huerter recreates shooting drills to get his shots in, but also wants to make sure his conditioning remains in top shape.

"I'm trying to move around a lot," he said. "I still have a routine. I'm still getting a lot of shots up, and getting into a lot of ball-handling stuff too."

Like many of us, he's trying to find ways to be productive outside of work. Instead of just playing video games or watching Netflix, he is using his time wisely.

"I'm a part of an investment group that is building a facility in my hometown of Clifton Park," he said. "We're hoping to break ground this summer. It's supposed to be up by next summer."

The project will be a place that he can put on basketball camps, use for his AAU teams, and eventually the home of the charitable foundation he's working towards creating.

"It'll be six high school courts, around ten volleyball courts, it'll have the makings to do three college or NBA courts going the different way, a full weight room. It'll be a big facility, so we're trying to get that off the ground."

As for the season, he played in 56 games, averaging 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. The Hawks came into the season excited about their young core and what they can do. However, a rash of injuries and a 25-game suspension to John Collins made the year a lot different than anticipated.

"It was a very up and down year," he said. "It's not a complete negative. I think there's a lot of good takeaways. I think a lot of areas that we did improve and a lot of guys got better individually over the course of the year."

While the season was not one they had hoped for, next season's optimism is even brighter.

"We have a clear direction this year now," he said. "I think we know at least the group of guys that we're hopefully going to move forward with and try to put together winning seasons and make playoffs and do things of that nature."

In regards to his own development, Huerter had to deal with a shoulder injury that kept him out of a large string of games. During a November 12 matchup in Denver against the Nuggets, he exited early with the shoulder injury and did not return until December 4. The injury was delicate because he felt like he could play two weeks even before he was allowed to return. Contact can reinjure the shoulder. On December 15, at home against the Lakers, he re-aggravated the injury.

"It was definitely bothering me for a good month even after I got back," said Huerter. "It wasn't completely right and it's getting there. Shoulder injuries are kind of tough to get back from because there's so many small muscle groups you have to figure out."

Even with the injury and the team's ups and downs, he still had a productive campaign. He was shooting 38 percent from three-point range, 83 percent from the free-throw line, and improved as a playmaker.

He also hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Spurs to give the Hawks their first win in San Antonio since 1997.

Yet, he is still looking to improve all aspects of his game and advance his above-average three-point shooting to elite levels.

"38 [percent] is not something I'm upset by," he said. One of my goals [is] 40 [percent] every year. That's something that's achievable for me."

The Hawks are a high-powered offense that lets him not only shoot the ball but make plays for others. Coach Lloyd Pierce has played him in a backup point guard role and facilitator role, putting the ball in his hands to make everyone else better.

Huerter had 18 games in which he tallied five or more assists this season.

"I think my game will develop as our team-wide game goes," he said. "Getting different guys involved and moving the ball around and our offense as a whole and the small lineups we use of just being tough to guard and having all five guys on the court who can make plays."

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