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

USA TODAY Sports Images

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.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

Secondary Prize: If your bracket scores higher than both Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos, you win a coupon code for a free Jersey Mike's sub!


Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

USA TODAY Sports Images

Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

There are not many videos better in this world than walk-on college athletes receiving a full-ride scholarship and their ensuing reaction. 

George Mason's men's basketball team gave everyone one of those emotional moments. Jack Tempchin, who's in his third year as a preferred walk-on for the Patriots, received the scholarship after Thursday's practice. 

His teammates reacted appropriately. 

On Twitter, the redshirt junior thanked his teammates, coaches and family who helped get him to this point. 

As a walk-on, Tempchin has only played in 16 games throughout his three years. Most of his minutes have been in garbage time of blowouts or to come in the game to pick-up a quick foul. Throughout those appearances, he's put up six points, four of them coming from the charity stripe. 

Gotta love when a player gets properly rewarded for their hard work and dedication. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


Virginia comes back from historic upset against UMBC to win the NCAA tournament

Virginia comes back from historic upset against UMBC to win the NCAA tournament

Shock and disbelief were carved onto the faces of the Virginia Cavaliers as they walked off the court from their lone NCAA Tournament game in March 2018.

The top-seeded Cavaliers had just lost, as is the case for 67 of the 68 teams that enter the big dance. But their loss was different. Their loss was unprecedented. 

They had just entered the record books for all the wrong reasons. The 2018 Cavaliers became the first-ever No. 1 seed to be upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to a No. 16 seed. 

The greatest upset in college basketball history belongs to the UMBC Retrievers for their manhandling of Virginia that day. However, that unlikely victory – as incredible and monumental the feat was – is not what is highlighted today. 

That UMBC victory sparked what would become a great comeback year for Virginia. A year later, the Cavaliers would squash their demons and take home the national championship.

Both years were exceptionally dominant for Virginia. The former being the No. 1 overall seed of the tournament. Combined their records were 60-5 excluding their NCAA Tournament games. To produce such an incredible mark, they rode on the back of their intimidating defense to get there. In 2018 they were fifth in adjusted defense according to KenPom. That rose to first the year that they won it. 

With such a good defense, it left some holes on their offense. Sure, they held opponents to only 53 points but they did not muster much better on the other end of the court. Their offense was a problem and it cost them by scoring only 54 to UMBC. 

Nothing changed for Virginia the following season. Their identity – a slower pace, defense-first mindset that many regarded as the sole reason for their loss to UMBC – did not waiver. Head coach Tony Bennett just had them improve in every aspect of their game. 

Most importantly, though, they got all their key figures to return. DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome were all there to avenge the loss.

It made the celebration for the Cavaliers so much more triumphant. It was easy to feel the relief that Hunter exhaled as he chucked the basketball to the rafters as the final seconds in the national championship game ticked away. A story tale ending was complete. One that was filled with chills and narratives that the best storytellers in Hollywood could not script.