Dewan Hernandez enjoyed his time at the University of Miami, playing for Jim Larranaga.
But he’s also clear about this, too:
“I’m glad I’m not playing in the NCAA any more.”
That’s because his junior season turned out to be a nightmare, with Hernandez informed shortly before the opener that he would be held out of games while the NCAA evaluated a potential rules violation, and then learning he would be suspended for the season, despite assertions by UM and his attorney that his violation did not warrant punishment nearly that severe.
But Hernandez’s odyssey has taken an encouraging turn. Toronto selected him 59th overall, with the next-to-last pick, in the June 20 NBA Draft, and the 6-11 forward has played well for the Raptors’ summer league team, averaging 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and just under 24 minutes per game.
Toronto on Saturday rewarded him with a three-year, partially-guaranteed contract.
What has happened over the past nine months “has been really strange, but [getting to this point with an NBA team] is what I worked for,” Hernandez said this week in a corridor of Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus. “This last year has been tough. But I knew I had an opportunity to showcase my skills in predraft workouts and the Combine and I took advantage of that.”
After he was drafted, he received uplifting texts from Larranaga and several former UM teammates.
“Coach L, everybody texted me after the draft,” he said. “They knew it was special for me, with me not playing, they knew how hard I worked for it. [All the UM people were in] my corner the whole way.”
Hernandez, who was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American at Miami Norland High, announced he would forego his senior season at UM days after the NCAA ruled in late January that he must sit out all of the 2018-19 season and 40 percent of the 2019-20 season for “entering into an agreement and accepting benefits from an agent.”
An NCAA press release said: “According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university, Hernandez agreed to receive monthly payments from an agent and accepted other benefits from the individual. According to the guidelines adopted by NCAA membership, the starting point for these violations is permanent ineligibility, but the NCAA staff recognized mitigating circumstances based on the specific facts of the case when making its decision.”
Hernandez’s attorney, Jason Setchen, maintained that no contract was ever signed and Hernandez never received any of the payments that aspiring agent Christian Dawkins had proposed in person or in an e-mail. In May, Dawkins was convicted of bribery and conspiracy and sentenced to six months in prison.
Hernandez --- who worked out for 15 NBA teams before the draft as his Charlotte-based agent Nathan Conley tried to get him drafted --- said he experienced a wide range of emotions as last season unfolded.
“A little bit of everything,” he said. “In January, it was still, I might play this year or I might not. A little bit of anger from everything, emotions from everywhere.. February I was good because I was already moving on, getting ready for the draft.”
Though he has moved on, he said the decision that essentially led to the end of his college career was unjust.
“It was unfair,” he said. “If you go by their rules, I was supposed to be back playing. That was an unfair decision they made. I don’t know what they need to do, but I’m glad I’m not playing in the NCAA any more.”
Entering Saturday, former Hurricanes were leading the Las Vegas Summer League in scoring (Lonnie Walker IV) and assists (Bruce Brown). Here’s a look at how all the ex-Canes are doing:
▪ Spurs guard Walker: Drafted 18th overall in 2018, Walker missed the start of last season with a meniscus tear, then appeared in only 17 games for the Spurs, averaging 2.6 points. But he has erupted in the past week, leading summer league in scoring at 30 points per game, albeit in just two games.
▪ Detroit swingman Brown: After starting 56 games as a rookie for the Pistons last season and averaging 4.3 points and 1.2 assists, Brown has developed in summer league, averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and a summer league-leading 8.3 assists in 28 minutes per game.
▪ Warriors forward Davon Reed: Selected 32nd overall by the Suns in 2017, Reed has appeared in 31 NBA games (10 for Indiana last season) but has struggled in summer league, averaging 6.5 points and shooting 8 for 25 from the field.
▪ Warriors center Ebuka Izundu: He’s averaging 5.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 14 minute per game as an undrafted rookie.
▪ Cleveland forward Anthony Lawrence: The rookie Lawrence, signed by the Cavaliers after the draft, is averaging 5.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 19 minutes per game. He’s 9 for 26 from the field.
▪ Denver guard Rion Brown: Brown, who played at UM from 2010-14, is averaging 4.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 19 minutes per game. He has spent his entire pro career oversees, including the past two seasons in Greece.
▪ Philadelphia guard Sheldon Mac: He played 30 games for the Wizards as a rookie in 2016-17 but missed the next season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and was in the G-League last year. Attempting to jump-start his career, he averaged 6.7 points on 7 for 16 shooting this summer.
▪ Phoenix guard James Palmer Jr.: Palmer, who began his career at UM and ended it at Nebraska, is averaging 14 points.
Here’s my Saturday piece on Heat rookie Tyler Herro, and what the team and others are saying about him.