Kevin Huerter’s legacy at Shenendehowa High in upstate New York already included leading the team to its first state championship in nearly 30 years as a junior, scoring the school’s all-time record for points and being named recently as the state’s Mr. Basketball.
The Maryland signee, who will be a freshman in College Park next season, added what might be unprecedented recognition for a high school player: a logo of his silhouetted likeness. It was unveiled by Shenendehowa coach Tony Dzikas at the team banquet Tuesday.
Dzikas said he simply ran out of ideas for what to give a player who had had received every shooting award -- including being the team’s top free throw shooter in each of his four seasons on varsity -- and was the team’s Player of the Year as a junior and a senior.
“He kept getting these plaques and to be honest, I couldn’t give him the same awards over and over again,” Dzikas said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Somehow it just popped up like a Jerry West NBA logo inspiration.”
Recalling a picture that appeared in a local newspaper earlier this season of the nearly 6-7, 180-pound guard throwing down a tomahawk dunk, Dzikas said he told the school’s athletic director, “If I can take that picture and make a logo like the NBA did with Jerry West, I thought it would be a great tribute to a kid that has given so much to this school.”
As a senior, Huerter averaged 21.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals in leading Shenendehowa to 24 straight victories before losing in the state semifinals. A four-star recruit, Huerter is rated 46th in ESPN’s top 100 high school players.
It was not just in honor of what Huerter had done on the court, Dzikas said.
“He’s such a great kid, he’s helped out the kids in the community,” Dzikas said. “Obviously I have such great feelings for him. I coached him for four years and I’ve loved coaching him now [as a senior] more than I ever had. Despite all the recognition and praise that he receives, he’s still grounded, still a tremendous kid to be around.”
When he brought Huerter up for his award, a picture of the logo that Dzikas put on Facebook was blown up on the projector screen. Dzikas later handed out T-shirts commemorating the team’s regional championship with the logo on the back.
“We’ll do that for every shirt we make from now on,” Dzikas said.
Dzikas tweeted out a picture of the logo after the banquet.
“I’ve never sent out a tweet that’s gotten so much traction,” Dzikas said.
Huerter was pretty low-key about receiving that kind of recognition.
“It’s really cool, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Huerter said. “We have this tradition every year that coach gives out awards that kids have earned. He said he wanted to do something a little different. I was kind of speechless, I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honor. We have a really great history here at Shen. A lot of great players have come through here. We have a really good winning tradition. I think Coach has lost like 28 games in 11 years.”
One of those losses came in Huerter’s last game, in the state Class AA semifinals in Glens Falls. Shenendehowa let a five-point lead in the final minute of regulation slip away and lost to Aquinas Institute of Rochester in overtime.
“We’re kind of still thinking about it, especially kind of how we lost,” Huerter said. “Different events in that game that went perfectly for them. If we had gotten one play right, we would have won the game.
“You’ll always have that what if, not going to be able to go back next year and prove anything. I have a lot of great memories from high school, I’ll do my best to move on from it.”
Known more as a 3-point shooter than a dunker -- he recently participated in a 3-point shooting contest at the Final Four in Houston, where he tied for the second-highest score -- Huerter can play all three perimeter positions.
Huerter said he has dunked since the 10th grade, though his vertical leap has never been measured.
“We talked about that when he was in Houston, they were putting some type of monitor or tag on the shorts of the players that were in the dunk competition,” Huerter’s father, Tom, said. “We were kind of joking, he wished he was in the dunk competition just to see what his vertical was.”
Huerter is already starting to think about next season at Maryland, where he will be part of a three-player recruiting class that also includes four-star point guard Anthony Cowan of St. John’s High in Washington and three-star forward Michah Thomas of Huntington (W. Va) Prep.
“He’s just a very mature kid,” Dzikas said. “He really has a tremendous feel for the game and he’s very knowledgeable. I know he wants to get into coaching when he’s done playing and I’d be shocked if he isn’t a D1 coach someday. This is a kid who really knows the game. He’s beyond his years.”
The pressure will be on Dzikas to replace the best player to pass through Shenendehowa since another Mr. Basketball, former Duke standout Greg Koubek, led the team to a state title in 1987. The logo might buy him some time when it comes to the banquet.
“I was kidding around with Kevin’s father and I said, ‘I come up with a good idea about once every five years, so I’m good until about 2021,” Dzikas said.
How about putting the logo on the uniform, as the NBA did with the legendary West.
“We haven’t gone there,” Dzikas said. “Yet.”