With under three minutes left in the Terps’ Jan. 7 game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. lobbed a pass to freshman forward Bruno Fernando. The pass was slightly off, but Fernando reached back with his right hand to grab the ball and slam an emphatic dunk that sent the Xfinity Center crowd into a frenzy.

The acrobatic play was pivotal, as Maryland pulled away for a 91–73 win. And the legend of Bruno Fernando continues to grow.

“Bruno Fernando is one of the hardest-playing dudes I’ve been around,” head coach Mark Turgeon said just days before Fernando made his college debut.

Just 20 games into his college career, Fernando has impressed with his high motor, footwork and athleticism. He credits these attributes to his younger days in Luanda, Angola, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in southern Africa. 

It was here that Fernando, the second youngest of eight children, and his four brothers bonded through their love of soccer. He played avidly until age 9, when a childhood friend who needed more basketball players to complete a rec team roster introduced him to the sport.

“The first two weeks were rough,” Fernando says. “At that time, I didn’t understand the process of how you become good at something. As time went on, I just kept doing it and then I started liking it more and more.”

Within the next few years, Fernando landed in the 2014 U-17 World Championships, where he played for his home country against top college prospects, including former Terp Diamond Stone.

“That was probably the game that made people from (the United States) talk to people at home to get me to play over here,” Fernando says.

In January 2015, Fernando left his family and friends for Florida to further his basketball potential. He attended two of the top prep schools for athletics, playing two years at Montverde Academy before transferring to IMG Academy. A consensus four-star recruit, Fernando committed to Maryland in October 2016.

He’s been a welcome addition to a Terps front court that last month lost forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender for the year due to injuries. The 6-foot-10-inch big man has been a force in the paint, averaging 10.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Jan. 8 after recording a double-double against Penn State and then a career-high 21 points against Iowa. Often the most animated player on the court, Fernando sticks his tongue out, flexes his biceps and screams out to the crowd after a big play.

“When I met him, he was just a guy with a lot of energy, somebody that I knew I would love to be around,” freshman guard Darryl Morsell says. “He was just somebody I knew I would love playing with and someone I knew I could call my brother off the court.”

His infectious personality has already made him a fan favorite in his short time at College Park.

“People don’t understand what Maryland means to me,” Fernando says. “Me being here and my family being able to watch me play basketball in America is an opportunity that probably a million kids in Angola would like to have.”