Bruno Fernando looking for bigger role in Year 2

Bruno Fernando drives against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of an exhibition basketball game, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. The Pelicans won 133-109. (Special/John Amis)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

For Bruno Fernando, his rookie season with the Hawks was a lot like being a freshman in college again. He was on a new team, in a new city, learning a new system.

“It’s kind of like when you go to college for your freshman year," Fernando said. "You’re not really used to college basketball (and) you find a lot of bumps in the road.”

In Fernando’s freshman season at Maryland, he averaged 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 0.7 assists in 22.4 minutes per game. By his sophomore season, he was averaging 13.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and two assists in an average of 30 minutes each game.

Fernando thinks he’ll be able to make a similar jump in his second professional season.

“For me, (last season) was just a learning experience,” Fernando said. “(I learned) a lot of things about the speed of the game, the amount of competitiveness out there, skills and all (those) types of things that play a factor into it. For me, I just try to learn from all these things and move on to the next one and try to work and try to be better my second year.”

After his offseason began amid the pandemic shutdown, Fernando watched every game from the 2019-20 season as he looked for areas to improve in his game. The biggest thing he noticed was, a lot of the time, he could see himself overthinking what he should do in a given situation.

“I was just really not being decisive,” Fernando said. “I was always thinking too much on, ‘What should I do?’ ... I think that was the biggest thing that really didn’t allow me to be myself because I was scared of making mistakes.”

Now heading into his second season, Fernando has been working a lot with Clint Capela at minicamp, who the Hawks acquired at the trade deadline from the Houston Rockets. Capela figures to be a key piece for the Hawks at center this season and is a valuable source of education for Fernando.

“I try to drink as much as I can out of his experience as a player,” Fernando said. “He is somebody who I watched a lot when I was in college and high school and, a lot of times, always mentioned as somebody who I can end up being like.”

As Fernando works to have the same kind of improvement as he did from his freshman to his sophomore season at Maryland, there’s not one specific area of his game he’s been working on.

Fernando wants to get better in every aspect of the game, but he’s focusing on the things that will allow him to have a bigger role for the Hawks next season, whether that’s shooting, defense, or something else.

“There’s always room for improvement in every aspect of my game,” Fernando said. “Whenever I have the time, I’ll try to work on every aspect of my game. But at the same time, I just try to emphasize the things that I know (will) the best help me fit in with this team and the group of guys that we’ve got.

“... I understand the things that I have to do to get us in a position to win games and be successful. I’ve got to fit in and find the things that work best for me.”

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