Fernando and Cowan have hired agents and will take advantage of the new NCAA rules which allow players to hire representation during the draft evaluation process. Players may retain their college eligibility and return to school if they first terminate their relationship with the agent. The deadline to return to school is May 29.
"Both of them will have the opportunity to take advantage of the system set in place to gain feedback on their futures," head coach Mark Turgeon said in a news release. "Our coaching staff will be working in tandem every step of the way."
This decision by Fernando should surprise almost no one. His sophomore season saw a marked improvement in almost every statistical category and cemented Fernando as one of the best frontcourt players in recent memory for the Terps.
He averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season, helping lead the Terps to a 23-11 record and a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten. His 22 double-doubles in 2018-19 were the third-most in a season in Maryland history.
"It has long been my dream to play basketball at its highest level in the NBA,” Fernando said. "With that being said, I am taking the predraft process extremely seriously. I want to ensure that I make an informed decision that will set the foundation for sustained success and prosperity throughout my playing career and beyond."
In conference play, he finished second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (62 percent) and rebounds (10.4) and fourth in blocks (1.9), earning him first-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive team honors.
After posting big numbers in two conference wins in mid-January, during which he averaged 17.5 points on 73 percent shooting, 12 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Fernando was named Big Ten Player of the Week and Oscar Robertson Player of the Week, the first time a Maryland player won the award since it switched to a weekly format during the 2009-10 season. He was also one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award, given to the nation's top center.
Fernando flirted with the idea of jumping to the NBA following a strong freshman season in 2017-18, during which he averaged 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, but after participating in the NBA Draft Combine and working out for with several teams, he announced he would return for a second season at Maryland.
The decision proved a fruitful one for him, as he is projected to be selected in the latter half of the first round according to some draft experts.
Fernando's frontcourt teammate, Big Ten All-Freshman forward Jalen Smith, announced April 8 he will be returning for his sophomore season.
As for Cowan, the junior earned second-team All-Big Ten. He has one year of eligibility remaining. Going through the NBA Draft process will allow him to receive feedback from teams moving forward, but he is less likely than Fernando to leave early.
Cowan's stats took a dip in his third season, averaging fewer points (15.6), assists (4.4) and rebounds (3.7) than he did as a sophomore. His field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage all dropped as well. However, he did lead the team in points, assists and minutes for the second straight year.