Watch I Am the Prospect: Bruno Fernando in full in the video player above. A four-part series, I Am the Prospect follows top basketball prospects in their journey to the 2019 NBA Draft.
Bruno Fernando has always turned heads as a basketball player. From the courts of Africa to the bright lights of the NCAA's largest college basketball arenas, he always draws attention.
In a week, he'll have a chance to turn heads around the world at the 2019 NBA Draft. If drafted, he will become the first Angolan-born player to be selected in the draft.
It is an accomplishment the 20-year-old does not take lightly.
“It’s obviously something that will not just benefit myself, but everybody at home. Everybody is going to be really happy and proud," Fernando told NBC Sports Washington for I Am the Prospect. “To know that I got a whole country on my back, a whole country that is dreaming about the same thing I’m dreaming of every single day, I’m working hard to making it a reality. I think everybody at home will be celebrating, it will be everybody’s win.
People from home weren't there though as Fernando traveled to the United States to play at Montverde Academy. In fact, when the budding high-school prospect made the trek to America, he was without his family. He had one thing on his mind: basketball.
Now on the doorstep of achieving his dream at after playing the sport for 11 years, he's accepted it's a fact of life. Those sacrifices helped him mature into the person he has become.
"At the end of the day, you've got to accept life as it is and that's the biggest thing for me, just accepting things as they are. There [were] times where it was tough, even [at the University of Maryland] there [were] times when I look at my teammates, and I look at the stands and their parents are all there," Fernando said. "I never saw my Mom or Dad there to watch me play and it was hard for me at times, but I never let that affect me on the court or affect who I am."
Maryland fans know Fernando for his raw emotion and energy he brings on the court. Once he stepped onto the floor as a freshman playing against Stony Brook, everyone saw it. Everyone was excited. He was an instant impact for a team that was in transition after the loss of Melo Trimble.
Every bucket and rebound he collected was more than just a point on the scoreboard or a tick in the stat sheet. Whether it was an emphatic celebration or his confidence, it grew from game-to-game.
At practice, the rest of the team saw it even more. While his teammates were around the water cooler, he was shooting free throws. It did not go unnoticed. Before long, they joined him. The then-freshman changed the culture.
"The first time I had him at Maryland practicing, I knew he was going to be an NBA player," Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. "Just how hard he was going to work to get there and then once you got to know Bruno, you knew he was going to work hard and make that dream come true."
His rigid 6-10 frame and magnetic attraction to rebounds have NBA scouts drooling. The fundamentals for an NBA player are there and the potential of what he can achieve never wavers. Stock on Fernando continues to rise and he could be a valuable prize for any NBA team looking to the future.
In his final season with the Terps, he averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds en route to 22 double-doubles, the second-most in a single season at Maryland. Having previously declared for last year's draft before withdrawing to return for his sophomore season, Fernando now knows what to expect. And NBA teams know what to expect if they were to draft the forward.
Odds are that Fernando will be the first Angolan to make history. Several of the top mock drafts not only have him being drafted but also up in the first round. As the draft nears, he continues to climb spots.
NBC Sports Washington's latest mock draft has Fernando going 30th. NBADraft.net has him going as high as ninth to the local Washington Wizards.
“I really think I fit perfectly with the Wizards. Being from the DMV area and playing for Maryland, that would be great for the fans, for the Wizards and for Washington as a community,” Fernando said.
Many would consider Fernando rising to the lottery a reach for several teams. There are a plethora of other options with a better NBA-ready skill set, in particular, those with an ability to score in bunches. Fernando's comfort zone is around the paint, which limits how far some teams will reach on him. Washington in particular needs depth in the post, but there are other needs that may be more acceptable to address at No. 9.
Nevertheless, getting drafted high is not among Fernando's concerns. The fact that he is on the precipice of being drafted and trailblazing a path for future Angolans is good enough for him.
"It's really gratifying for me that I have the opportunity to make and really open doors for everybody else. Hopefully, we'll have more than just me in the NBA in the years to come," Fernando said.
I AM THE PROSPECT