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Freshmen Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell have brought a spark to Maryland basketball

The Terps’ rookies have become game-changing players right away.

Smack in the middle of the first half during Maryland basketball’s 79-65 win over Butler on Wednesday, freshman Bruno Fernando won the Xfinity Center crowd over in a single sequence. The 6’10 forward freed himself with a spin move and banked in a short hook shot, then drew an offensive foul on Butler’s Tyler Wideman.

Riding an emotional high, Fernando flailed his arms to pump up an already-frenzied arena. It gave us the best GIF of Maryland’s season so far, but it was somehow even more perfect than that.

“The energy is what he brings,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “Bruno was terrific.”

It’s been a while since that energy has been such a consistent presence for the Terps. But Fernando and fellow freshman Darryl Morsell have brought it in their first three college games.

Morsell finished with 13 points off the bench Wednesday night, while Fernando chipped in eight. The duo has wasted no time becoming key cogs in Maryland’s success. They’ve combined to average nearly 18 points per game in the early going (Morsell 9.3, Fernando 8.3) and are fifth and sixth on the team in minutes played, trailing only Maryland’s three sophomores and junior guard Dion Wiley.

Turgeon trotted out only nine of his 11 scholarship players against the Bulldogs, and two of those nine played only four minutes. Morsell and Fernando were staples in that seven-man rotation, and that position should only strengthen as they grow familiar with the college game.

There will be growing pains. Morsell is Maryland’s best option at point guard when Anthony Cowan isn’t on the floor, and the freshman isn’t entirely comfortable in that role just yet. Fernando has committed a personal foul every seven minutes on the floor, on average, and the freshmen have 15 combined turnovers in three games.

But there’s already a physicality about the two rookies that Turgeon said he was looking for when recruiting them. Morsell has showed the ability to play lockdown defense, while Fernando has four blocks and many more contested shots so far.

“That’s the reason he brought me here, for my toughness,” Morsell said. “It’s something I pride myself in.”

The only two members of Maryland’s 2017 recruiting class have been close since taking their official visits together, and both Fernando and Morsell committed and signed last November. A year later, they’re two of the most exciting and fun players on an exciting and fun team.

“Darryl’s my guy, and I love playing with him,” Fernando said. “I feel like me and Darryl being out here, once I see him getting going, it’s definitely gonna motivate me to get it going, and it’s likewise—if I get it going, he also wants to get it going.

“Me being out there with Darryl, especially with a crowd like that at home, just means a lot more.”