With the NBA Draft lottery complete, media for the combine got underway in Chicago on Wednesday. Maryland men’s basketball has three players in the process, with two who are testing the waters and one who has signed an agent.
Freshman Bruno Fernando and sophomore Kevin Huerter both received invites to the combine without signing an agent, and will use the rest of the week to improve their stock and get a better understanding of how scouts view their skill sets. Fernando’s stock is the hardest to ascertain because of the uncertainty of whether he's good enough to be drafted as is, or if he’s likely to improve enough to justify waiting until next year’s draft. Huerter is viewed as a likely second-round pick if he stays in this draft, but is expected to return unless he suddenly shoots up a lot of big boards.
After testing the process last offseason, Justin Jackson declared with intentions to sign an agent, thus ending his time at Maryland. The missed season due to a torn labrum means he’s likely missed out on a good chunk of money. Nevertheless, someone should take a flier on him late in the draft.
While the consensus on Huerter and Jackson are much closer, Fernando’s upside and athleticism has the potential to wow during testing. The combine will run until Sunday, then Huerter and Fernando will have a week to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to school.
Here’s where each of the Terps’ entrants land on some national publications’ big boards and mock drafts.
Kevin Huerter — likely to return
Short of an eye-opening combine showing, Huerter will likely be advised to return for another year of school. A successful season could vault him up around the area where three-and-D wing and senior Mikal Bridges is this year. In fact, SI has Huerter listed at No. 15 on its early 2019 big board.
Despite the collective interest in his potential progress, Huerter is still good enough to get drafted this season. After shifting down to guard, Huerter averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game and picked up his production after Jackson went down. He piqued the interest of scouts by entering relatively late, and his shooting and versatility could allow him to endear himself to a team.
Bruno Fernando — coin flip
That wide variation of rankings is the reason Fernando’s stock is hard to pin down. The freshman center is still a candidate to one-and-done at Maryland, after recording 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and a team-high 1.3 blocks per game. The 6’10 Angolan seems to have writers equal parts sure he could play himself into the back half of this draft at the combine as they are that he would do better by returning for one more season.
He has a Big Ten all-freshman team nod under his belt, and the potential to turn heads during athletic testing. Fernando also already has a group workout under his belt, having seen the Atlanta Hawks last week. This draft is top-heavy with centers, though Mitchell Robinson pulling his name from the draft combine could help Fernando’s cause. Next year's draft is much lighter on top-level centers, so he may earn himself some money by waiting.
Justin Jackson — likely second-round pick
SI: 50 (mock draft)
Jackson turned heads by entering the draft with an agent and ending his Maryland run. However, Jackson is part of a cautionary tale to his fellow Terps about a dream deferred. This time last offseason, he was talked about in the 25-45 range; now he's closer to 40-60.
Jackson's best assets are his ability to defend multiple positions and his nose for the ball. He averaged 9.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in 11 games before being shut down with a torn labrum. The injury means he's largely the same player as last season, but with a red flag and a much lower draft stock. He'll have to use the week to prove he's healthy if he hopes to build any momentum.