Ole Miss' Huertas signs pro deal with team in native Puerto Rico
Dabid Huertas, Ole Miss' top scorer last season, signs pro deal in Puerto Rico
Huertas finished fourth in the SEC in scoring at 18.1 points per game
Center Malcolm White also left Ole Miss squad last month
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- David Huertas, Mississippi's leading scorer and a second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection, has quit school and returned to Puerto Rico to play professionally.
The school made the announcement in a statement Monday. Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero says Huertas has signed with a professional team, the Quebradillas Pirates of the Superior National Basketball League, quoting team official Omar Gonzalez.
Huertas declined an interview request from The Associated Press but said through the Ole Miss sports information department that he "will miss everything involved with Ole Miss basketball."
"This was my second family for three years. But I want to have a job and the responsibilities that come with that. I have sacrificed a lot of time away from my family to play basketball, and in Puerto Rico I can have both, because they can come to all of my games."
Huertas' father, Armando Huertas, played professionally in Puerto Rico and the younger Huertas was a member of his country's national team in 2006. His hometown is Humacao.
The 6-foot-5 Huertas carried the Rebels through much of the early season after they lost several key players to injuries.
At one point, he was the SEC's No. 2 scorer and finished fourth in the league with an average of 18.1 points per game after injuries slowed him during the season's final weeks.
Huertas transferred to Ole Miss after his freshman season at Florida. The junior and coach Andy Kennedy often clashed over Huertas' defense or poor shot selection, openly yelling at each other during games. But Kennedy spoke highly of him during the presentation two weeks ago of the Howell Trophy, given to the state's top men's college basketball player.
Huertas is the second starter to leave Ole Miss in the last month. Center Malcolm White left the team a few days after the season ended, saying he wanted to be closer to home in Baton Rouge, La. White averaged 7.2 points per game.
Kennedy told The Associated Press on Monday that he is now pursuing recruits for the monthlong signing period that begins Wednesday and is scheduling visits. He signed just one player, 6-foot-8, Memphis, Tenn., native Reginald Buckner, during the early signing period last fall, but now has two scholarships in hand.
"We went from not openly looking to fill a specific need to now obviously we've got two scholarships with which we can work and try to help our team," Kennedy said. "You're constantly recruiting and you're constantly checking with the possibility of these things occurring. Now it's a reality and we have to go out and address the voids that are created by David and Malcolm pursuing other opportunities."
In a way, Huertas' departure clears room in what figured to be a very crowded starting lineup. Starters Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice, along with key reserve Trevor Gaskins, missed most or all of the season with left knee injuries. All three are on schedule to return next season.
And while they were out, Terrico White blossomed into the SEC's newcomer of the year while replacing Warren at point guard. He will likely move into Huertas' spot next season.
Terrico White had been rumored to be considering turning pro, but told Kennedy on Monday that he would return next season. Kennedy doesn't believe any other player is thinking about leaving.
"So now it's a matter of figuring out the right pieces to bring to this puzzle so that we can have the type of year we all want to have," Kennedy said.
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