Maryland men’s basketball forward Bruno Fernando and guard Anthony Cowan will hire agents and declare for the NBA Draft, the team announced Monday.
New NCAA rules allow draft prospects to hire agents and still return to school if they withdraw from the draft by May 29, a luxury not allotted players in the past as they attempted to navigate the transition between college and the pros. For a player to return, he must end his relationship with his agent.
“Both Bruno and Anthony are taking advantage of the new rules and hiring agents to make educated decisions as they pursue their goals of playing in the NBA,” coach Mark Turgeon said in a statement. “Both of them will have the opportunity to take advantage of the system set in place to gain feedback on their futures. Our coaching staff will be working in tandem every step of the way.”
Fernando earned All-Big Ten first team honors after a breakout sophomore campaign, in which he developed multiple facets of his game. The Angola native also made the conference’s all-defensive team.
The sophomore forward finished as a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, which is given to college basketball’s best center, after compiling 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and 22 double-doubles.
“It has long been my dream to play basketball at its highest level in the NBA,” Fernando said in a statement. “I am taking the pre-draft process extremely seriously. I want to ensure that I make an informed decision that will set the foundation for sustained success and prosperity throughout my playing career and beyond.”
The 6-foot-10 forward created mismatches for many defenses, and he combined well as the season went on with forward Jalen Smith, who announced April 8 that he would remain at Maryland for at least another year. Fernando often battled double teams, which at times limited his productivity, especially in the first half of games.
In the Big Ten tournament against Nebraska, Fernando managed just three points, a season-low, while giving up three turnovers and providing just one assist, the latter an area where Fernando improved during the season after testing the NBA Draft waters last offseason.
Cowan led the Terps in scoring, averaging 15.6 points and over four assists per outing. Many around the program expected Fernando to depart, but Cowan’s decision to declare for the draft comes as more of a surprise.
“My last three seasons at Maryland have been a true blessing and I have grown so much as a player and person,” Cowan said in a statement. “As I enter my final year of eligibility, I feel it’s important to receive an evaluation of my game from professional teams to best prepare myself for life after college.”
After Fernando received feedback during the 2018 draft process, he took a step forward in his sophomore year. With one year of eligibility remaining for Cowan, declaring for the draft and participating in the workouts could help refine his game.
Cowan has been at the forefront of Maryland’s lineup over the last three seasons, starting all 99 games and averaging 33.5 minutes per game during his career. He made the all-conference team twice, and if he does return, may be one of the top ball handlers in the Big Ten.
The guard ran into an offensive mire midway through the season, however. Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 16, Cowan averaged 10.1 points on 31.9 percent shooting. He also averaged 2.76 turnovers per game this year.
He rebounded late in the year, but shooting struggles returned during the NCAA tournament. Cowan managed nine points in the Terps’ first-round win over Belmont on 3-for-18 shooting. He posted 11 points, shooting 4-for-11 from the field, in their second-round exit against LSU, in which he hit three 3-pointers and doled out six assists.
With the bulk of the squad returning, Maryland figures to be challenging atop the Big Ten next year. All five freshman contributors — Jalen Smith, Ricky Lindo, Aaron Wiggins, Serrel Smith and Eric Ayala — will return to Turgeon’s squad, and he’ll welcome the No. 27-ranked recruiting class, per 247sports, in the fall.
If Fernando leaves, it may lead to a one-big lineup, with Jalen Smith as the main presence inside. Without Fernando, Lindo could see more playing time, especially if he can become more of a scoring threat. Plus, the addition of four-star center Makhi Mitchell and three-star big Makhel Mitchell from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. should provide depth.
Should Cowan leave, which appears less likely, Ayala would step into full-time duties as point guard, a position he already handled much of this season.
Despite the possibility of losing Fernando and — to a lesser degree — Cowan, Maryland still figures to be a strong group, retaining many key pieces of a young core.
“I never think my program is in bad shape,” Turgeon said March 23, shortly after losing to LSU. “Seven of our top eight were freshmen and sophomores, and we’ve recruited pretty well. Some things will happen in the spring I’m sure that will add some pieces, you know, and we’ll get even better. So I’m looking forward to coaching this group again next year.”