In a move many expected — Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon among them — sophomore center Bruno Fernando has decided to keep his name in this year’s NBA draft.
Fernando, who is expected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in the June 20 draft, announced Wednesday that he will be leaving College Park after two seasons.
"After further consideration, I have decided to place my entire focus on the NBA draft as I pursue my dream of playing basketball at the highest level," Fernando said in a statement issued by the school. "I want to thank every member of the Maryland community, especially my teammates, Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff, for making my time here special and everything my family and I could have hoped for. I will always consider Maryland a home away from home."
Rachel Stein, the communications coordinator for Priority Sports and Entertainment, confirmed Fernando has signed with the Chicago-based sports management company. Priority Sports also represents former Terps Jake Layman and Kevin Huerter.
Fernando had flirted with the idea of coming out after his freshman year, when The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Angolan had a more than respectable showing at the league’s scouting combine in Chicago.
Fernando is expected to go to Chicago again later this month, but it will be more to talk with coaches and general managers whose teams have a shot at taking him.
"Bruno and I have gathered a lot of information and based on those conversations, we are excited about his draft prospects," Turgeon said in a statement. "I know this was a difficult decision for Bruno because of how much he loved being in College Park. He fully embraced the Maryland experience and loved the fans just as much as they loved him.
“I'm incredibly proud of the player and, more importantly, the man Bruno has become during his two years here at Maryland. His work ethic and drive to succeed are second to none. We wish him the very best as he pursues his dream at the next level."
One longtime NBA scout, who wished to remain anonymous, said Monday that Fernando made among the biggest jumps of any sophomore who went to last year’s combine and returned to school.
“Of all the kids who came back after their freshman year, he would have to be in the conversation as the most improved player in the country,” the scout said, echoing a comment Turgeon made several times last season.
The scout said he thought Fernando had “the makeup of an NBA front-line player” even as a freshman, but was very raw in his offensive skills and limited in his understanding of the game.
The one thing that stood out from the beginning was Fernando’s energy.
“Terrific motor,” the scout said. “I love the motor.”
The scout said he saw a different player last season, when Fernando was named to both the All-Big Ten first team and the league’s All-Defensive team.
After averaging 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 22.4 minutes a game as a freshman, Fernando averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 30 minutes a game as a sophomore. He also averaged 2.0 assists a game.
Showing flashes as a freshman, Fernando became one of the most consistent players in the Big Ten. He finished with 22 double doubles, tied for the second most in school history with Len Elmore and and ranked second in the country this season.
Fernando ended his career ranking second in program history in field-goal percentage (.595), tied for eighth in blocks per game (1.6), tied for ninth in double doubles (25) and 10th in rebounds per game (8.7). He appeared in 64 career games, making 53 starts.
“He started checking boxes that were question marks after his freshman year,” the scout said. “Offensively, he became an excellent passer, a very willing teammate to do the right thing. … He added so much to his game.
“His rebounding became better. He eliminated a lot of the stupid fouls. He was playing with skill and with a purpose. He was playing with great energy. He was much more comfortable in every given situation.”
While Fernando’s Maryland career is now officially over, junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. will continue to keep his name in the draft eligibility pool and has until May 29 to withdraw.
Most scouts expect Cowan to return for his senior year.
NBA draft lottery
May 14, 8:30 p.m.