Before any of his teammates were out on the floor of the Watsco Center for practice Tuesday, Dewan Hernandez stood just inside the 3-point line and one end of the quarter.
With a few rebounders out on the court with him, the star post player hoisted shot after shot from either elbow. He took dozens of free throws. He stepped out to the 3-point line to throw up shots from long range until a university employee finally pried him off the court for his first interview of the fall.
With a line of cameras pointed at him, Hernandez sat at a courtside table to explain all the decisions in what wound up a very busy offseason. Just a few days earlier, Hernandez legally changed his name from Dewan Huell. And a few months before this major life decision, Hernandez made another when he opted to stick around for his junior season at Miami rather than head to the NBA Draft.
“Basically, basketball to me is a business decision,” Hernandez said Tuesday in Coral Gables. “When you see in the NBA, you see the big guys that can make 3s, they get paid $7 [million to] $10 million a year. I want to be one of those guys.”
It could be a boon for the forward from Norland and it certainly is already one for the Hurricanes. After losing two other players to early entree in the NBA Draft, Miami will count on Hernandez to be the focal point of its offense this coming season and coach Jim Larranaga is counting on an even more well-rounded skill set than before.
To become a surefire first-round pick, Hernandez will need to prove he’s more than just a lob target with the ability to occasionally create offense for himself.
It’s why he was the first player out on the floor ahead of practice Tuesday. When Hernandez first announced he was putting his name in the Draft, the Miami native thought for sure he had suited up for the Hurricanes for the final time.
Hernandez finished second on the team in scoring as a sophomore at 11.4 points per game and led Miami with 6.7 rebounds per game. He figured NBA teams would envision him as a potential first-rounder, which would mean guaranteed money.
His workouts with professional teams didn’t exactly land him the feedback he hoped for. Most scouts told him he’d likely be in consideration during the second round. Hernandez feels he flashed his potential during workouts when he was attacking off the dribble and sinking jump shots, but he proved as a sophomore he couldn’t quite do it on a regular basis.
“When I first announced it, I didn’t think I was going to come back,” Hernandez said. “But a lot of guys told me also that if I worked my butt off, keep improving and showed things that I showed during camps, I’d be a first-round draft pick.”
This coming season, Hernandez said he expects to shoot one or two 3-pointers per game. He’s also been working on a variety of ways to create while away from the basket. The huge percentage of Hernandez’s points as a sophomore came from reeling in drop-off passes and finishing dunks near the hoop.
Since deciding to return to school, Hernandez has worked with Larranaga on a few basic moves. He feels comfortable taking a couple dribbles from the top of the key and shooting a pull-up jumper or finding a cutter for a dump off. He’ll continue to get more advanced, working on ripping through a defender and getting all the way to the rim to score a dunk or layup off the dribble. It should make the Hurricanes’ offense more dynamic and Hernandez more dynamic as a prospect.
“It was critical for Dewan to return. But I think critical not only for us, but for him,” Larranaga said. “You’re going to see a much better, more skilled version of himself.”
So it feels somewhat fitting that his change in identity as a player comes along with a very literal identity change. Earlier this month, Hernandez finalized a legal last-name change from Huell to Hernandez, which will give him the same last name as his mother, Christina Hernandez.
Hernandez said he’s thought about it a long time, however he just recently learned what the whole process requires. If this winds up his last season with the hometown team, Hernandez will make it a chance to honor his family.
“It’s not just honoring my dad or anything,” Hernandez said, “but I’m honoring my mom for always being there for me whenever I needed her from when I was born.”