For two years at Maryland, Bruno Fernando generated bursts of energy inside Xfinity Center, leading the Terrapins with both his fire and skill. In doing so, he piqued the interest of NBA teams and many projections pegged Fernando as a first-round pick. But instead, he dropped into the second round Thursday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Fernando with the fourth pick of the second round, 34th overall. They will trade the 6-foot-10 center to the Atlanta Hawks, where he will join former Terps Kevin Huerter, a first-round pick last year, and Alex Len.
After moving from Angola to Florida and then College Park, Fernando’s basketball career has finally reached its long-awaited destination.
Even though he had to hear his name called by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, rather than Commissioner Adam Silver, Fernando became the first Angolan chosen in the NBA draft. Growing up, Fernando knew nobody from his home country had ever made it that far in this sport, but he didn’t realize he had the ability to be the first until a year ago.
After a season at Maryland, Fernando’s NBA potential became evident. He tested the draft waters last summer before improving his draft stock through his standout sophomore season.
“I’m thrilled for Bruno that his dreams of being drafted into the NBA have become a reality,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said in a statement. “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.”
During his time in College Park, Fernando carved a spot in Maryland history that already seems larger than a two-year stay might usually produce. His on-court performances drew the attention, but his outward displays of emotion magnified his stardom.
Fernando was a consistent force for Maryland this season, notching 22 double-doubles after finishing with just three the year before. Against Iowa, Fernando tipped in a missed layup from Anthony Cowan Jr. for the go-ahead basket in the final minute of the game that ended the program’s road losing streak against ranked teams.
Fernando was the player who could ignite a crowd’s roar with just a simple raising of his arms. In his final game as a Terp, he walked off the court with his arm around an inconsolable Jalen Smith just after Maryland saw its season end at the hands of LSU in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Fernando played well as a freshman but blossomed during his sophomore year. After his return to school, Fernando emerged as one of the best players in the Big Ten, earning first-team all-conference honors and becoming one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, which is given to the top center in college basketball. Fernando proved he could play among the best at the college level, so now — even though he waited longer than expected to hear his name on draft night — the NBA awaits with a new challenge.