When Angolan power forward Bruno Fernando (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.) committed to then-coach Larry Brown and SMU in March 2016, he immediately had reservations.
And that was before Brown left the program in July.
See, while the 6-foot-9.5, 225-pound Fernando loved Brown personally, he wasn’t sure he truly wanted to be at SMU. Like so many touted basketball recruits, Fernando felt like he was directed towards a certain college without having really explored the program for himself. Thus, he decommitted from SMU less than a month after giving Brown his pledge, opening himself back up to what he dubbed a “very confusing” recruiting process.
“I was kind of under pressure the first time through the recruiting process. I was listening to everyone else’s opinion instead of my own,” said Fernando, who arrived in the United States in 2014 after showing out with the U-17 Angolan national team. “I felt like I needed to make my own decisions and do what was best for me – not everyone else.”
So, after returning to Angola to discuss the matter with his parents, Fernando returned to the U.S. with a new plan and a new mindset. First, he decided he needed another year of high school, to develop both socially and athletically, since he had played just two years at Montverde Academy (Fla.). Then, after reclassing from 2016 to 2017, he opted to complete his prep year at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.). Finally, Fernando elected to keep his recruitment to himself, analyzing each potential suitor on his own.
“When I came back to the U.S.,” Fernando said, “I was confident I could make this decision for me.”
In the five months since his decommitment, the four-star Fernando, the No. 57-ranked recruit on Scout, slowly but surely gained attention on the trail. He initially performed on the NIKE EYBL circuit with Each 1 Teach 1, but it wasn’t until he shined with the U-18 Angolan squad -- where Fernando showed he could score at will underneath, hit from 3, run the floor, find his teammates, rebound and defend the rim -- that the offers began matriculating back in.
Not only did SMU renew its pursuit, but Auburn, Florida State, NC State, LSU, UCF and Alabama all came calling as well.
Eventually, so did Maryland, who had just lost a recruiting battle with Michigan State for versatile forward Jaren Jackson (La Lumiere/La Porte, Ind.) and watched center Ikey Obiagu (Greenforest McCalep/Decatur, Ga.) walk away from a UMD official visit without committing.
Terps’ head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark trekked down to IMG in late September to watch the budding big man, promptly extending an offer afterwards.
“I really liked Coach Turge and Coach Clark. They came down to see me and we had a great day and talked a lot about my future,” Fernando said. “Then we scheduled a visit for like [mid-October], but I had things to do with my team down here. So I was excited to get up [to Maryland] early, and I was really looking forward to seeing the school.”
Thus, Fernando set up his College Park, Md., official visit for Sept.30-Oct. 2, Maryland's homecoming weekend. He didn’t anticipate committing during the trip, but apparently the program won him over.
“After I saw Maryland, I knew I was ready to make my decision, and I was very comfortable with it. I didn’t want to go through the whole recruiting process again. I already did that with SMU the first time,” Fernando said. “I was looking for the best fit, and I knew as soon as I found it I was going to commit. I got that [vibe] at Maryland and I just felt very comfortable there. I liked the campus, the atmosphere and the environment.
“I think Coach Turgeon is a great coach, and I know I’m going to get a lot better there. The coaching staff is really going to help me a lot.”
While Turgeon and Clark did the heavy lifting and convinced Fernando to visit, it was the current Terps who may have sealed the deal. The Angolan forward said he readily bonded with the entire team and enjoyed playing pick-up ball with them.
“The way the players welcomed me in, I just felt like I’d known them for a long time, not just one day or so,” Fernando said. “The way they treated me, like I was already one of their teammates, that meant a lot to me. They didn’t even say much to me about Maryland; it was just how they were around me. It was just cool.”
The IMG product felt the same sort of love from the Maryland fans. He had a chance to attend the Terps’ homecoming football game against Purdue, and was easily recognized by numerous UMD faithful.
“The Maryland fans were crazy and people knew who I was and everything,” Fernando said. “I loved that.”
Fernando, who speaks multiple languages, including his native Portuguese, also liked how College Park is situated near Washington, D.C. But not necessarily for the reason most out-of-state recruits do (read: job/internship opportunities).
“A lot of people from Angola live in D.C., and a lot of them were saying how excited they were to see me play at Maryland,” said Fernando, who mentioned one of his main goals is to bring his parents, who he’s seen once in the last two-plus years, to the United States so they can see him play. “That’s pretty cool to have people from back home supporting me and knowing they’ll be at my games.”
Now that Fernando’s recruitment has (hopefully) ended for good this time, he’s eager to sign with the Terps in November. Then, he can concentrate on developing further and enjoying his final high school season.
“I love Maryland, I love the players and I love the coaches. Go Terps, and I can’t wait to get up there,” Fernando said. “Definitely I want to win big at Maryland, and then hopefully make my dream come true, which is to one day play in the NBA. It’s something I’ve been working towards for awhile now.”
Note: Fernando also mentioned that he’d be attempting to recruit two of his new IMG teammates to College Park: five-star 2017 point guard Trevon Duval and five-star 2018 center Silvio De Sousa, the latter a fellow Angolan who has known Fernando for years.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” laughed Fernando. “[De Sousa] is from my home country and it would be great if he came to Maryland too. And Trevon, we’re trying to get that done. I’m not really close with him yet since I just got [to IMG]. I’m going to build a relationship with him first and then we’ll see if I can get him to come to Maryland with me.”