Once former Maryland center Bruno Fernando was selected No. 34 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, his name was etched in history for becoming the first Angolan-born player ever to be taken in the NBA Draft.
With his first NBA season with the Atlanta Hawks around the corner, Fernando is grateful for his time at Maryland and how it allowed him to achieve such a feat. Prior to attending Maryland, Fernando did not have any previous connection or history with the Maryland area -- but it didn't take long for him to fall in love with the school.
"I could go on and talk about Maryland all day, all year, all month," Fernando said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Oct. 16. "... When I got there, I committed right on my visit because I was like, 'This is it, I'm not trying to go anywhere else. I found what I needed.' That bond, that family atmosphere, that love and affection that [head coach Mark Turgeon] had for his players."
"My two years, I can't even put into words," Fernando added. "My two years at Maryland were beyond amazing. It's like everything plus something else that I could've expected. I'm just glad I did make the right decision to go to a school where I was able to succeed on and off the court. I'm forever grateful and I can't forget that, for sure."
Fernando, a native of Luanda, Angola, takes pride in his Angolan heritage, and he's played on Angolan national teams in the past. Fernando is honored to be the first Angolan selected in the NBA draft, but he also hopes that through this accomplishment, others will soon follow.
"It means a lot just to know that I kind of opened that door that it seems people have been knocking at for so long," Fernando said. "We've had many great players in Angola. Being able to dominate African basketball for many years and to not have anybody in the NBA was kind of shocking for a little while. But now for me to open that door, hopefully there will be many more to come in the years to come, so it means a lot."
Fernando played for the Terps from 2017-2019. Listed at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Fernando had a strong sophomore season, averaging 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. He finished his season with 22 double-doubles and was named first-team All-Big Ten and to the Big Ten's All-Defensive team.
After leading his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Fernando declared for the 2019 NBA Draft. He was selected in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers, who traded him to the Atlanta Hawks. Now the 21-year-old is excited to get his rookie campaign underway. The Hawks open the regular season at Detroit Oct. 24.
"I don't think I can put it into words," Fernando said of his excitement.
Fernando has fulfilled his dream of becoming an NBA player, but there is one thing that he feels makes this experience even more special. He's one of three former Maryland players on the Hawks' roster alongside guard Kevin Huerter and center Alex Len.
Fernando and Huerter used to be teammates back in 2017-18, but Huerter entered the NBA Draft after the season and was selected No. 19 overall by Atlanta. Now two years later, the two have reunited in Atlanta. Fernando could not be more thrilled to be alongside a former teammate and close friend as he enters this journey as professional athlete in a new city.
"It meant a lot. It's crazy, me and Kev talked about it all last year while I was at Maryland," Fernando said. "... For everything to work out the way it did for us to be back together and not just us, but even with Alex, three Maryland guys on the same team, it's crazy. Just to come in the environment where you already have these relationships with certain guys makes it easier to adapt to the city."
Fernando has high hopes for his alma mater and will be watching closely this upcoming season. Coming off a 23-11 record with a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this year's version of the Terps comes back with a deeper, more experienced roster and high expectations.
Maryland is led by talented players like senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., sophomore forward Jalen Smith and sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins. Fernando believes the Terps can make some noise this season, but he says they have to remain humble in order to reach their true potential.
"It's a deep team for sure," Fernando said. "We're not going to get out here talking about accomplishments already and what we can and cannot do. I just think that we've got to still stay one day at a time. It's a lot of hype around, a lot of expectations around Maryland, but at the end of the day they just got to come out and play every game like it means something to them."
For more from Fernando, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham – NBAE/Getty Images