After a sophomore season during which Austin Hutcherson established himself, at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, as one of the best players in Division III basketball, he developed a plan, and the plan was simple -- specifically to spend the summer working out with New York-based trainer Tim Burns, alongside various professionals, among them NBA veterans Ron Baker and Noah Vonleh, and then ...
"And then I was going to go back to Wesleyan, and I was going to kill it, and then I was going to try to make the jump [to Division I] after my junior year," Hutcherson explained. "But after working out with a bunch of guys this summer, they were like, "Yeah, bro. You need to go now.'"
This was all happening in June, not too long ago, and Hutcherson wasn't sure going now was a realistic option even if former high-major players were telling him he looked very much like a high-major player. Regardless, he had some highlights uploaded to YouTube, and some Division I coaches saw them and were intrigued enough to request USB drives of entire games. So Hutcherson had those sent along too. And, next thing he knew, coaches from the ACC, Big Ten and Big East were calling and texting and trying to secure a commitment.
"It's crazy," Hutcherson said. "Sometimes I look at my phone, and I see the coaches who are texting and calling me, and it's guys I've been watching on TV my whole life."
It really is an incredible story.
"Fast" is actually an understatement. I mean, think about it: two months ago, almost nobody above the Division III level knew anything about this 6-foot-6 guard who led the New England Small College Athletic Conference in scoring (20.0 points per game), 3-point percentage (39.2) and free-throw percentage (88.5) as a sophomore. But thanks to encouragement from workout partners, a YouTube video and some USB drives, Hutcherson entered the weekend with offers from Notre Dame, Creighton and Illinois -- and signed with Brad Underwood's Illini while on a visit Saturday.
"We are thrilled to add an outstanding young man and quality player to our program in Austin Hutcherson," Underwood said. "Austin is a skilled, multi-dimensional guard who can play off the ball and handle it."
Just like that, a life is changed.
Hutcherson's initial plan to train all summer, return to Wesleyan, dominate at the Division III level and then transfer to a Division I school after next season has been scrapped in favor of a new plan that'll have him enrolling at Illinois soon, sitting out the 2019-20 season because of normal NCAA transfer rules, and then playing two years in the Big Ten. It's a wild tale that's a testament to talent and hard work, obviously. But it's also a story that shows the importance of training with the right person, and around the right people, who then encourage you, and create exposure for you, in a way that leads to something of substance that otherwise probably would not have been available.
"It's a dream come true," Hutcherson said. "To get a chance to play in [one of] the best conferences, on TV, against the best people, it's going to be really exciting. So I'm really excited to get there and see what it's like."