Bruno Fernando just missed out on becoming the second Maryland player in as many years to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft June 20, but if his reaction when his name was called was any indication, it didn't matter.
Fernando bent over with his head in his hands and tears streaming down his face as he was selected 34th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. But instead of playing just over two hours from where he played his college ball next season, the 6-foot-10 center can look forward to suiting up with an old Terrapin teammate down south.
Fernando was reportedly traded on draft night to the Atlanta Hawks. The move reunites Fernando with former Maryland guard Kevin Huerter, whom the Hawks took at No. 17 overall a year ago. He will join yet another former Terp in Atlanta, center Alex Len, who played two seasons at Maryland from 2011-2013.
Fernando is the sixth player under head coach Mark Turgeon to be drafted and 60th in team history. He is the first player from his native Angola be drafted in NBA history.
"I'm thrilled for Bruno that his dreams of being drafted into the NBA have become a reality," Turgeon said in a release. "The Hawks are getting one of the hardest working players I have ever had the pleasure of coaching, and Bruno has an incredible opportunity in front of him. This is a special night for Bruno and his family, especially being the first Angolan to be drafted in the NBA's history. I can't wait to see what he achieves at the next level."
After testing the NBA draft waters a year ago, Fernando returned for a second season in College Park, Md. The decision proved fruitful as Fernando
improved in nearly every major statistical category in 2018-19
despite being mobbed by double- and sometimes triple-teams all year. He showed a sharpened passing touch, averaging two assists per game and shot just north of 60 percent from the field.
Fernando averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game as a sophomore, and his 22 double-doubles were tied for second-most in a season on the way to earning first-team All-Big Ten and All-Defensive team honors.
Before Fernando declared for the draft in April, his stock remained steady during the course of the 2018-19 season, and most draft analysts had him going in the mid-to-late first round. But after just one center -- Texas center Jaxon Hayes -- was drafted in the lottery, Fernando fell to the second round.
At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Fernando possesses the size and athleticism required of a modern NBA big man and has been compared to Houston Rockets center Clint Capella as a rim-running defender and shot-blocker. His free-throw shooting (76 percent as a Terp) is an added bonus at the next level.
Fernando joins centers Miles Plumlee and Len and forward John Collins in the Atlanta frontcourt as well as last year's 30th overall pick, Omari Spellman, who split time between the Hawks' roster and the Erie BayHawks of the NBA G League last year. Dwayne Dedmon, who played the five for the Hawks last year, is an unrestricted free agent.
Prior to trading for Fernando, Atlanta was busy on draft day. First, they made a splash just before the draft began, reportedly trading the No. 8, 17 and 35 picks in exchange for the No. 4 overall pick, which became Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter. Then six picks later, they drafted Duke forward Cam Reddish at No. 10, the third Blue Devil to go in the top 10.
With proven scorers in Collins and point guard Tre Young, Fernando likely won't be asked to shoulder as much offensive responsibility as he did at Maryland, but his defense and rebounding will be invaluable. And while he rarely showed it in college, Fernando is capable of playing on the perimeter, offering glimpses of a solid shooting form from beyond the arc, though he only attempted 13 threes at Maryland in two seasons.
Last month, Fernando impressed at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, showcasing his skills against other highly-rated college big men, including Miami's Dewan Hernandez and Oregon's Bol Bol. The Angolan big man finished third in the standing vertical and bested everyone in the shuttle run and three-quarter court sprint.
On draft night, Fernando's name was called before Bol (44th) and Hernandez (59th).
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