NCAA

2019 NBA Draft: Maryland's Bruno Fernando developed into a potential 1st-round pick by swatting away doubters -- like his head coach

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2019 NBA Draft: Maryland's Bruno Fernando developed into a potential 1st-round pick by swatting away doubters -- like his head coach

COLLEGE PARK – As the Terrapins prepped to leave for their 2019 NCAA Tournament opener, Mark Turgeon revealed his thoughts on Bruno Fernando’s play last season.

In terms of the center’s on-court performance, Maryland’s head coach wasn’t a fan.

“With Bruno, it’s been a lot of things,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “I think about last year at this time. He had trouble catching passes. He had trouble finishing. He was always in foul trouble. He was emotional in the wrong way.”

These assessments would seem harsh even if accurate considering the public airing. That is unless the follow-up sentences from Turgeon offer a narrative shift toward the affirmative based on the 6-foot-10 sophomore’s contributions this season for the 22-10 Terps.

Good news: There is.

Fernando’s energy, defense and offensive efficiency earned the Angola native Big Ten First-team and All-Defensive Team honors. He led the conference in field goal percentage (62.4), ranked second in rebounding (10.5) and third in double-doubles (20). The growth raised his stock among NBA talent evaluators – and his head coach.

“Now he can catch, now he can score against the double-team. He’s been an all-league first-team defensive player. He’ll stay out foul trouble. Been a great leader,” Turgeon said. “There’s been a lot of things he’s improved on and continued to improve on as the season goes on. I’ve said it a lot this year, but he’s one of the most improved players from one season to the next that I ever coached.”

Turgeon finished his statement on Fernando’s development with a line NBA scouts will consider ahead of June’s NBA Draft: “He’s still got a good upside to him too.”

That’s interesting considering the 2019 class lacks quality big man depth. ESPN’s latest draft rankings slot Fernando 31st overall. Maybe he doesn’t zoom into the lottery range where the Wizards’ first-round pick projects, but there’s a chance for a rise with good work during the NCAA Tournament.

“If he catches it with his back to the basket, you’re dead. He’s going to bury you,” NBC Sports college basketball insider Rob Dauster told NBC Sports Washington. “He’s really athletic and explosive. If in the NBA you’re asking him to go 20 minutes a night and be a like a DeAndre Jordan, a big body in front of the rim and go get some rebounds, score on you and catch some lobs, he can do that.”

His rim protection (1.9 blocks per game) and lane activity standout most not just to observers, but his teammates.

“On the defensive end knowing that he’s my behind me, gives me a lot of [comfort],” freshman guard Eric Ayala said of Fernando.

Yet it’s the other end where Fernando’s presence may make the most difference for a Maryland team that struggles with offensive consistency in the half-court sets. After reaching double-digit points in 27 of 31 games, Fernando had only four points on 1 of 4 shooting in Maryland’s 69-61 loss Thursday in its Big Ten Tournament opener against Nebraska.

“Teams are going to double (Bruno), and we have to make them pay like we have all year. We didn’t do that in our last game,” Turgeon said. “A lot of it was him, a lot of was the guys around him. You can argue that our team’s best offense is when teams double-team Bruno. When they start to double him, and we start to make him pay that we’re going to win these games.”

The bounce-back chance for Maryland, no. 6 seed in the East Regional, comes Thursday afternoon against 11th seeded Belmont.

“I think we've got to just stay positive,” Fernando told reporters Wednesday in Jacksonville, site of Thursday’s and Saturday’s game should Maryland advance. “I think our team is progressing as the game goes on, as the season goes on. … It’s an opportunity for us to really leave everything else behind and just focus on what we got in front of us.”

He means the madness of March. Soon that changes to the prepping of the NBA Draft. Insiders project Fernando will forgo his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility. Then we’ll learn how much the professionals value the center’s development and believe in his upside. At least we know Fernando made his Coach a believer this season.

NBA Draft profiles:

·        Zion Williamson, Duke

·        Jessie Govan, Georgetown

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

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Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

Coming out of the NFL combine, former Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. was projected to be a second-round pick in the NFL Draft. But could he end up sliding into the first round on Thursday?

It seems like a possibility now, based on some of the teams he's met with, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday. And NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has previously said Savage could rise to the first round too.

NBC Sports Washington's latest NFL Mock Draft has Savage going to the Green Bay Packers as the 44th overall pick.

According to Rapoport, Savage met with 11 teams, including the Carolina Panthers (No. 16 overall pick), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20 overall pick), Seattle Seahawks (No. 21 overall pick), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 25 overall pick) and Los Angeles Rams (No. 31 overall pick). 

The three-year starter out of College Park was named Second Team All-Big Ten this season after recording 52 tackles (38 solo, 14 assist) for the Terps, along with four interceptions, including one pick six. He's versatile, strong and fast, and even if he gets passed by in the first round of the NFL Draft, it seems unlikely that he'll still be available by the end of the second.

At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Savage ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February -- a time that was second-fastest among all safeties -- and posted a 39.5-inch vertical, third among safeties, and a 126-inch broad jump. He also had 11 bench-press reps.

Pro Football Focus has Savage listed as the second-best safety in this year's draft class behind Delaware's Nasir Adderley because he's "a missile around the line of scrimmage".

MORE NFL DRAFT NEWS

Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

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Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

The George Washington University men's basketball team landed the son of longtime NBA point guard Jameer Nelson Tuesday. 

Jameer Nelson Jr., a 2019 guard out of Pennsylvania's Haverford School, decommitted from his father's alma mater (Saint Joseph's) following the news that Phil Martelli would not return for the 2019-20 season. 

This marks first-year head coach Jamion Christian's second commitment since being named head coach of the Colonials after one year at Siena College. 

Nelson Sr. played in the Association from 2004 to 2018, including 10 seasons in Orlando. The point guard averaged a career-best 16.7 points per game during the 2008-09 campaign.