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From Angola to the NBA Draft, Bruno Fernando is about to make NBA history

From Angola to the NBA Draft, Bruno Fernando is about to make NBA history

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

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How George Floyd changed Ian Mahinmi's perspective on advocacy and fatherhood

How George Floyd changed Ian Mahinmi's perspective on advocacy and fatherhood

Over the last month, America has been having a long-overdue conversation about race, justice and equality in our society. At NBC Sports Washington, we wanted to further the dialogue by providing a forum for DMV-area sports figures who are thought leaders on these important issues.

NBC Sports Washington is launching the first part of an ongoing video series entitled Race in America this week. Ian Mahinmi, Natasha Cloud, and Mike Locksley joined Chis Miller for the first of these roundtable discussions to share their experiences, thoughts and how they’re using their platforms in this fight. To watch the full interview, click here.

Wizards center Ian Mahinmi has been familiar with the history and horrors of racism from a very early age. With a father from Benin, Africa, he was taught about slavery as a child and in graphic detail, to the point where it numbed his views on other subjects of race relations.

He explained in honest and introspective detail on 'Race in America,' a panel hosted by NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller that also featured Mystics guard Natasha Cloud and University of Maryland football coach Mike Locksley.

Here's what Mahinmi said:

"Me, I have such a different view, first because I'm African. You wouldn't believe the stuff that I've seen and that I was exposed to. My dad always showed me what was slavery at home. I have pictures. My dad always showed me everything. So, it wasn't the first time I saw something crazy like that happen," Mahinmi said, referring to the video of George Floyd being suffocated by a police officer in Minneapolis.

RACE IN AMERICA: WATCH THE FULL ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION HERE

"It's almost like you look back and I felt a little embarrassed of myself that it took [George Floyd's] story for me to be shocked again. It's almost like I became numb to it. It's like 'I've seen this before, it's crazy but I've seen it before.' It's like okay, alright, that's it, no more. Now, I'm a grown man and I have kids. I'm going to do anything I can now, anything in my power to do my part."

That feeling of frustrated indifference is one Mahinmi wants to prevent his daughters from ever experiencing in their own lives as African-Americans in the United States.

"Is it normal that I'm numb to this? No, it's not. And I don't want it to be normal for my kids anymore, for it to be just another scene that they have seen before. The fight started a long time ago. As an African, as a Black male from Benin where slavery was at its peak, I've gotta do my part. Even though I started this fight a long time ago, I've gotta do more and I'm going to do more," he said.

"At some point, what are you going to do about it? You get to a point where now I'm 33 years old and I have three girls and I'm looking at myself in the mirror and I'm like, man, if this doesn't start with me, my kids are going to say the same [thing]. Enough is enough."

Mahinmi's thoughts were one of many powerful moments during the 'Race in America' conversation. You can watch the full panel right here:

To watch the full roundtable discussion, featuring Ian Mahinmi, Washington Mystics star Natasha Cloud, and Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley, click here.

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Report: NBA closing in on second bubble in Chicago for eight teams not invited to Orlando

Report: NBA closing in on second bubble in Chicago for eight teams not invited to Orlando

When the NBA formally announced its plan to resume the 2019-20 season with a 22-team bubble-like format in Orlando, the eight teams that weren't invited to Florida likely believed their season was over.

Or, so they thought.

The league is reportedly closing in on a second "bubble" in Chicago for the eight teams not headed to Orlando, according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. The second bubble would allow teams to hold a mini-camp and have the eight clubs scrimmage one another in an NBA Summer League-like format, MacMullan wrote.

The bubble would allow the non-playoff teams a chance for young players -- such as Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young and Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton -- to play in real games for the first time in months. Veteran stars, such as Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, likely wouldn't play, according to MacMullan. The reported target date for the bubble is in September.

On Thursday, seven of the eight teams not included in the Orlando restart held a conference call to discuss the idea, with the New York Knicks being the exception. On the call, teams assured the NBA they would be willing to proceed with the bubble in Chicago, according to MacMullan.

RELATED: FIRST LOOK AT DISNEY COURTS IN ORLANDO BUBBLE

Not everyone is fully on board with the idea, however. According to ESPN, Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey took an informal poll of coaches from teams not headed to Orlando, and the majority of them would prefer to hold mini-camps at their own team facilities rather than travel to a bubble in Chicago.

"The reason we want these mini-camps is to get our team together, to have that camaraderie, to improve and enjoy some competition," Casey told ESPN. "We feel we can do that safely in our own environment. We can't let these guys sit around from March 11 to December without something. It's going to hurt their careers. It's too long of a layoff."

With a target date of September, the league has the luxury to assess how the Orlando bubble works out before making a decision about the Chicago bubble. According to ESPN, several teams have requested a two-week delay period to sign off on the second bubble to assess how the initial bubble in Florida works.

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