Charlotte Hornets

Bruno Fernando’s pre-draft pitch: Not ducking anyone pursuing NBA first round

Say this for Maryland big man Bruno Fernando’s approach to the NBA draft: He isn’t ducking anything.

After a workout Sunday morning with the Charlotte Hornets, Angola native Fernando said he relishes the chance to audition against various players he never encountered in two seasons with the Terrapins. Fernando’s willingness to test himself was on display recently when he agreed to a workout with the Detroit Pistons that included a peer, Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford.

It’s not uncommon in the run-up to drafts for projected first-round picks to avoid such workouts. Agents, understandably, advise there’s as much potential downside as upside to such tests. But teams appreciate players who welcome competition wherever it appears.

“For me to come to workouts, with guys I don’t really even know, and bring a lot of positive energy, is something I’ve been able to do my whole life,” said Fernando. who averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 block last season.

“We had a lot of fun,” Fernando said of the matchup with Gafford. “Going against each other, and picking up each other as well, was great fun.”

This isn’t Fernando’s first experience with the draft. He made himself available last spring, following his freshman season at Maryland, before deciding to return to college. This time around, he appears committed to turning pro.

Fernando figures to be a candidate for the Hornets’ No. 12 overall pick in the June 20 draft. He has something to offer in an area of Hornets need: rim protection.

Second time around

Fernando has long been viewed as having NBA potential; he played in world-class age-group competitions as a teenager and showed enough promise to play high school ball at the IMG Academy in Florida.

He made a significant jump last season with the Terrapins: first-team All-Big Ten and some All-American consideration. He particularly improved his defensive impact. His shot-blocking and rebounding numbers nearly doubled.

“Understanding the game, having a better feel,” Fernando said of the difference. “Freshman year there was a lot going on and sometimes I was thinking too much. Sophomore year was a lot more smooth and natural to me: My instincts and just being able to react right away.”

Rim protection isn’t exclusively shot-blocking. It’s clogging the lane, it’s anticipating opponent post moves, it’s absorbing and processing opponent offensive patterns.

“I have the ability to do that at a high level. I’m a lot better at that than my numbers show in college,” Fernando said. “At Maryland, I had to do so much for my team and it was a priority to keep me on the floor” by avoiding fouls.

‘Positive energy’

Running around a basketball court for two hours isn’t a typical job interview, but ultimately that’s what these workouts are. Fernando comes across as engaging and committed. That’s not more important than size or what the video and scouting show from Fernando’s two college seasons, but it still counts in the assessment.

“It’s my positive energy, my enthusiasm all the time,” Fernando said of what intangibles he brings. “I’ll be a guy who talks all the time and brings a lot of positive vibes. My basketball skills in general will take care of itself. I think coaches understand that.

“My personality, my character (matter). They’ll know I’ll come in and work hard every single day.”