Maryland freshman center Bruno Fernando had said all along that he wouldn’t stay in the 2018 NBA draft unless he was assured a spot among the 30 spots in the first round.
After being told by a number of NBA executives and scouts at the league’s recent scouting combine in Chicago that he was likely a mid-to-late second round pick, Fernando lived up to his word Monday.
In a statement release by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, it was annouced that the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Angolan would return for his sophomore year in College Park.
“I’m happy that Bruno went through the process and was able to gather the necessary feedback to make an informed decision on his future,” Turgeon said. “I think Bruno learned a lot during this process, and it will only make him a better basketball player. We’re really excited to have his energy and passion in our locker room next year.”
The annoucement followed a week of some trepidation for Turgeon, who, according to sources, had been told by Fernando that he was leaning on coming back but wanted to meet with his guardian in Orlando, Fla. After talking with Fenny Falmagne, as well as with John Mahoney, who coached Fernando in a postgrad year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Fernando flew back to Maryland late Sunday night.
“I’m appreciative for the opportunity to go through the NBA draft process,” Fernando said in the statement released by Maryland. “I received a great deal of feedback over the past six weeks that has been beneficial in making this decision.
“After significant discussions with my family and Coach Turgeon, I have decided to return to Maryland for my sophomore year. I’m excited to continue my education and look forward to a great season. I can’t wait to get back on campus, see my teammates and play in front of the great fans at XFINITY Center this fall.”
Fernando will give Maryland a physical presence inside that Turgeon’s team might have been lacking if 6-foot-9, 205-pound freshman Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) were forced to be the only rim protector, at least until 6-10 transfer Schnider Hérard is eligible in late December.
As a freshman, Fernando averaged 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in only 22.4 minutes a game. Fernando, who was selected to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, was often limited by foul trouble and also had ankle problems for the first half of the season.
Still, he showed his potential during the second half of the season when some of his best performances came on the road, including a 20-point, 10-rebound outing against Purdue and 7-1, 290-pound Isaac Haas as well as a 21-point, nine-rebound game at Nebraska.
Meanwhile, sophomore guard Kevin Huerter, whose stock rose at the combine, has until Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. to announce whether he will continue his college career or sign with an agent and take his chances with the June 21 NBA draft.
According to sources familiar with the process, several NBA teams have the 6-foot-7 Huerter on their first-round radar. Huerter has worked out for at least two of the teams he has been linked to in mock drafts, the Atlanta Hawks before the combine and the Brooklyn Nets last week.
Tom Huerter said recently that his son is expected to arrive at the family’s home early this week and the family will start discussing his options.
In a text message last week, one NBA executive wrote of Huerter, “A likely first-round, but he loves Maryland. Tough decision.”
Huerter’s performance in Chicago — from the testing in athletic and shooting drills to the 5-on-5 scrimmages to the interviews with NBA scouts and executives — elevated the stock of a player thought to be an early-to-mid second-round pick at best going into the combine.
Several NBA mock drafts have Huerter going in the first round.
As of Thursday, Sports Illustrated had Huerter going No. 18 overall to the San Antonio Spurs. With his stock jumping from No. 47 overall before the combine, Sports Illustrated called Huerter “perhaps the biggest winner at the draft combine.”
NBAdraft.net had Huerter going No. 21 to the Utah Jazz. Fox Sports listed Huerter at No. 24 with the Portland Trail Blazers. Bleacher Report mentioned Huerter going No. 27 to the Boston Celtics, who brought him in for a tryout before the combine. The Hawks could pick Huerter at No. 30, according to draftsite.com.
Dan Bonner, who in his role for a variety of television networks has seen the Terps in person more than any analyst in the country the past two years, believes Fernando is a more essential piece to the 2018-19 Terps than Huerter.
“I think given the way Maryland plays, Fernando might be a more important guy to have back just so they could have a physical presence inside,” Bonner said recently. “Obviously losing Huerter would be a serious blow, but I’m not sure they would be better with Huerter and without Fernando. It’s a choice you don’t really want to make — and you’re not going to make. I would think losing Huerter would be the lesser of two evils, but both would be evil.”
Former Division I coach and current ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg isn't so sure.
“You have players in your program that can do some of the things Kevin Huerter does, but not all of the things,” Greenberg said last week. “To me, even though Fernando’s unique in that he's a wide body that can score in the paint, you need play starters, playmakers, shotmakers, and the ball is going to be in [Huerter’s] hands 60 percent of the possessions.”