Chicago — Bruno Fernando was so comfortable at this year’s NBA Draft Combine, he answered questions in two languages.
Maryland’s Fernando told the media on Thursday that the second time around in Chicago has been more enjoyable.
“It’s been a lot easier than it was last year,” Fernando said. “This year, I’m a lot more confident and things are a lot easier and I’m way more comfortable just being around the guys and media. I knew what to expect now.”
The 6-foot-10 native of Angola also fielded questions in Portuguese from a reporter who traveled from Lisbon, Portugal, to cover the combine for the “A Bola” national newspaper.
Reporter Miguel Candeias traveled to write about Utah State’s Neemias Queta, a 6-foot-11 center from Portugal and Fernando, since Angola is a former colony of Portugal. Candeias said their stories are front-page material for the publication.
Fernando attended the combine last year but elected to return to the Terps, averaging 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Questions came from the media about his ability to make 3-pointers as a pro after going 4-for-13 (30.9%) beyond the arc for the Terps.
“I’m able to shoot the 3-ball,” Fernando said. “I think it’s just for me, the biggest thing was, I wanted to impact winning at Maryland. I wasn’t that type of player who wanted to showcase things for the fans in the stands to see.
“The biggest thing with me is I wanted to make sure everybody around me gets better. And I think I was so dominant inside and opened up a lot of things for our team and a lot of guys on our team to get open shots.”
This year, Fernando elected to not play in the five-on-five scrimmages in Chicago.
“I think last year, I was more in a position where I didn’t know where I stood as much,” he said. “I had to find out a lot of things coming to the combine. This year, I think I’m in a position -- just talking to my agents, talking to coaches -- I’m in a position a lot more comfortable than I was last year. Just in a much better place. Having that feedback from teams and stuff like that, my agent just felt like that was the best decision for me to not play five-on-five.”
Fernando said he’s had meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Sacramento, Indiana, Milwaukee, Portland, Atlanta and New York, and said he has more meetings scheduled for Friday.
When asked if he thinks he’ll be selected in the top 10, Fernando wouldn’t take the bait.
“I wouldn’t say anything right now, I wouldn’t say I’m a top-10 pick or I’m one of the best players in the draft or anything like that,” Fernando said. “I just feel like everybody shines in a different way, and I have my own way that I shine and why people like me.”
Becoming the first Angolan to reach the NBA will be emotional, he said.
“I don’t know if I’d even be able to describe it, I would probably get into tears right away,” Fernando said. “I’ve been thinking about the moment ever since I picked up a basketball to now be here in this moment and now be here with this opportunity in front of me.
“A million kids wish they were in my position. So for me to be here is nothing but a blessing.”
Fernando said Maryland will always have a special place his heart.
“Maryland is home,” he said. “I just stop and look back sometimes, the way they embraced me the first day I came on campus and how much love they showed me throughout the process. And just really how they supported me. They were always there for me, bad games and good games.
“They knew that I could be something more than what I was being my first year. I know it’s a place I can always go back anytime.”
Fernando said he’s receiving a lot of love from family and folks back home in Angola: “They can’t wait. I think they’re just as excited as I am for draft night. Knowing that a whole nation is behind me, and I’m here fighting and sacrificing to make a dream come true. It’s not just going to benefit myself and my family but a whole nation.”
Barclays Center, New York
June 20, 7 p.m.