In early August, IMG Academy coach John Mahoney brought in two United States Marines to run a leadership boot camp for his basketball team. The Marines came in barking orders, throwing bags around the room and getting in the players’ faces.
The Marines chose different players to help organize their team. After each one failed, the Marines took a more aggressive approach. Then, they chose Maryland men’s basketball commit Bruno Fernando.
Fernando promptly delegated tasks to his teammates and took charge of the situation, impressing the Marines enough to point him out to Mahoney.
“They came up to me and said ‘That’s your leader. He’s got greatness in him’,” Mahoney remembered.
Now, Fernando is ready to bring his leadership and composure to coach Mark Turgeon’s squad. He committed to the program on Oct. 2 as the first member of the Terps’ 2017 class and signed his National Letter of Intent on Nov. 9.
“He’s a fairly skilled, but strong, big man,” Mahoney said. “He’s never been on the perimeter before, so he must get used to facing the basket and working on his handles.”
The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center is the No. 6 center and the No. 70 overall prospect in the nation, according to 247sports. Fernando is the highest-rated frontcourt recruit for the Terps since five-star Diamond Stone joined the 2015 class.
As a coach for three years at Michigan, Mahoney understands Big Ten basketball and said he has no worries about Fernando finding success at the next level. Mahoney said Fernando’s leadership and personality stand out as much as his talent on the court.
“I wish I could have another one of him,” Mahoney said.
Part of his command stems from growing up on the west coast of Angola with six siblings. He was the youngest of the group, but his family always viewed him as an equal.
“My dad and mom taught us how to respect and be a leader,” Fernando said. “They got us on the right path.”
The values and skills he learned growing up on the West African coast have translated to America, where he views himself as a leader for the Ascenders. Fernando said Mahoney’s unwavering faith helps his self-confidence in guiding IMG as a captain.
While he’ll be a newcomer for the Terps next year, Fernando is excited to compete for immediate playing time and mold into a leader for Turgeon’s program.
“I’m excited for the team,” Fernando said. “I can bring a lot to the table for us.”
He admits that he’s become a better leader this season and part of the credit belongs to the Marines. While there were times in the exercise he thought, “Oh man, I don’t do this” or contemplated leaving, he said he controlled his emotions and stayed calm.
He listened to his teammates and helped them work together, skills Fernando strives to bring to the court.
“An amazing experience, we all learned a lot,” Fernando said. “It’s learning how to be a leader and a follower. Lessons you’ll carry with you all your life.”