The wait for Maryland freshman center Bruno Fernando’s decision on whether to forgo his remaining college eligibility is not quite over, but the Terps and coach Mark Turgeon received a reprieve Friday, learning the 6-foot-10 Angolan had not yet signed with an agent.
In a statement released by Turgeon, it was announced that Fernando will declare for the 2018 NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him the option to return for his sophomore year. Had he signed with an agent, Fernando’s college career would have been over.
The decision by Fernando comes a little over a week after Turgeon announced that sophomore forward Justin Jackson would declare for the NBA draft and sign with an agent, thus ending a promising career that was cut short by a season-ending torn labrum in December.
“Bruno and I have had a number of conversations regarding his decision to explore the NBA draft. We support him in this decision and will continue to guide him throughout this process,” Turgeon said in the statement.
Fernando, who was voted to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team after averaging 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game while shooting 57.8 percent from the field, is expected to be among the players invited to the NBA draft combine in Chicago in mid-May.
Fernando has until May 30 to withdraw his name from the June draft.
“This direct evaluation will help provide Bruno with an honest assessment of where he stands among NBA teams,” Turgeon said in the statement. “Upon gathering all of the information, Bruno will be able to make the best decision for his future.”
John Mahoney, who coached Fernando during a post-graduate season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., said he too was “worried” in recent weeks that his former star might sign with an agent.
Fernando, who said during the season that he had a very close relationship with Mahoney, had texted his former coach asking for advice. Mahoney seemed relieved Friday when he heard that Fernando had not signed with an agent.
“He just texted me asking what he should do and I told him I didn’t think was a good idea to get an agent,” said Mahoney, who also coached incoming freshman guard Eric Ayala this past season. “I said, ‘If you want to test the waters, that's good. But don’t commit yourself to where [you can’t go back].’ … I was just trying to talk him off the ledge.”
Fernando has been mentioned as a potential high lottery pick in the 2019 NBA draft — NBAdraft.net listed him as the No. 2 player behind incoming Duke freshman R.J. Barrett of Canada — but his stock for 2018 is still a bit in question.
Ranked No. 25 on Sports Illustrated’s “Big Board” for this year, Fernando’s name doesn’t appear on a number of other mock drafts for 2018.
NBA scouts said during the season that they were impressed with his athleticism, his intensity and the fact that he showed some range on his jump shot, especially toward the latter stages of his freshman year. There are still some questions about his hands and his overall basketball IQ.
Fernando’s return is considered vital for the Terps to have a turnaround after a disappointing 19-13 season, which ended without any postseason tournament invitation for the first time in four years and increased the scrutiny surrounding Turgeon’s future in College Park.
Along with the arrival of five-star McDonald’s All-American Jalen Smith, a 6-10, 195-pound forward at Mount Saint Joseph High, Turgeon is hoping to add to the team’s frontcourt regardless of Fernando’s NBA decision.
Maryland reportedly hosted 6-11, 205-pound forward Tariq Owens, who played the past two seasons at St. John’s after starting his college career at Tennessee, on an official visit last week. Owens, who is from Odenton, is reportedly visiting Texas Tech this weekend.
Trey Porter, a 6-10, 230-pound forward who played the past two seasons at Old Dominion after starting at George Mason, told The Baltimore Sun this week that he was taking an unofficial visit to College Park on Friday.
Both Owens and Porter would be graduate transfers and immediately eligible to play next season. With the departure of Jackson and redshirt junior Dion Wiley, who Turgeon announced last week was going to graduate and transfer, the Terps currently have three scholarships available.
Fernando might not be the only player who declares for the NBA draft without signing with an agent.
Sophomore guard Kevin Huerter, whose stock with NBA scouts rose throughout the 2017-18 season despite the team’s struggles, would have to declare in order to be invited to Chicago or to work out privately for teams.