Maryland center Bruno Fernando’s quest to become a first-round NBA draft pick after returning to school for his sophomore year fell a bit short Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Projected by many to go in the draft’s opening round, Fernando went in the second round, No. 34 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. Sitting in the stands, Fernando broke down and cried. They were tears of joy.
Fernando’s drop out of the first round wound up taking an interesting turn. Shortly after the pick was announced by NBA assistant commissioner Mark Tatum, several media outlets reported that the Sixers had traded the No. 34 pick to the Atlanta Hawks. A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed the trade.
Maryland issued a news release late Thursday night stating that Fernando had been dealt to the Hawks.
It means that Fernando will be reunited with former Maryland teammate Kevin Huerter, who was picked No. 19 overall by the Hawks last year. It also means the Hawks have three former Terps — Huerter, Fernando and Alex Len, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft by Phoenix who finished his first season in Atlanta.
Huerter tweeted, “YESSIRRRRR. Another #Terp in the ATL!!! Lets get back to work brotha.”
A combination of more NBA teams going to smaller lineups without traditional back-to-the-basket centers and Fernando’s limited opportunity to shoot outside as a Terp might have hurt his draft stock.
Only two centers, Goga Bitadze of the Republic of Georgia and Mfiondu Kabenengele of Florida State, were picked in the first round.
Bitadze went to Indiana with the No. 18 pick and Kabengele, the nephew of Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, was taken by the Brooklyn Nets with the No. 27 pick and will be part of a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Oregon center Bol Bol, the son of former NBA player Manute Bol who many had projected to go ahead of Fernando, also wasn’t picked in the first round. Bol went No, 44 overall to the Miami Heat.
Still, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Fernando has a chance to become the first player from Angola to make the NBA.
Many NBA scouts believe Fernando has a bright future , citing his athleticism, energy and attitude — traits that some of the same scouts said former Terp Diamond Stone, a second-round pick in 2016 (No. 40 overall) was lacking and has led to him playing mostly in the G-League and already being traded several times.
Some will question whether Fernando made a mistake coming out early. Even if Fernando had returned to Maryland for his junior year, it seemed unlikely that the way coach Mark Turgeon used him would have changed much.
While Fernando didn’t take a lot of of 3-point shots (4-for-13 in his career, including 3-for-10 last season), Fernando’s 76.3% career free-throw shooting rate is an indication of his potential as a perimeter shooter.
After being named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team in 2017-18 and going to the NBA draft combine, Fernando opted to stay in college and was considered one of the nation’s most improved players.
As a sophomore, Fernando was Maryland’s second-leading scorer (13.6 points per game) behind junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and led the Terps in rebounds (10.6) and blocks (1.9) per game. He was named first-team All-Big Ten and was selected to the league’s All-Defensive Team.
Fernando was also among five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award and was named an honorable mention All-American by Sporting News.
In 2018-19, Fernando tied Len Elmore for the second-most double doubles in a season in school history with 22. His .595 career shooting percentage was second to Buck Williams among Terps who played at least two years.
Two other former college standouts with local ties, Villanova’s Phil Booth Jr. (Mount Saint Joseph) and Texas Tech’s Tariq Owens (Arundel), who finished his well-traveled college career by helping the Red Raiders reach the NCAA championship game as a graduate transfer, were not drafted.