Maryland's Kevin Huerter remaining in NBA draft

Maryland guard Kevin Huerter declared for the NBA draft thinking that it was going to be an exploratory mission, one that might prepare him to go pro next season.

Turns out, he is ready now.

Huerter said Wednesday that he is forgoing his final two seasons of college eligibility and staying in the draft after a strong showing at the pre-draft combine in Chicago earlier this month and subsequent workouts and interviews with NBA clubs. Wednesday was the deadline day for underclassmen to say whether they are staying in the draft or going back to school.

In the end, Huerter decided to not risk losing this opportunity.

"This year is guaranteed," Huerter said from his parents' home in Clifton Park, New York. "Next year is not."

It's widely believed he will be a first-round pick. The No. 20-ranked NBA prospect by ESPN's Jonathan Givony is projected as the No. 19 pick by the Atlanta Hawks in ESPN's most recent mock draft.

The 6-foot-7 wing impressed scouts at the combine not just with his ability to shoot the ball but also his passing and athleticism. He was near the top of the charts in several testing categories.

He averaged 14.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting for the Terrapins last season, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.

"This was pretty tough," said Huerter, who wavered several times on the decision in the past couple of days. "Everything happened pretty fast. When I declared, I didn't really expect to be leaving. This was a pretty tough decision, and when things started happening, there came a time when I actually had to start really thinking about things."

This has been a rapid ascent for Huerter. In 2015, he led Shenendehowa High to a New York state basketball championship. A year later, he led Shenendehowa to a state title in baseball.

And now he is going pro.

"I never expected to be here," Huerter said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.