Rookie Spotlight: Dewan Hernandez

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After Controversial NCAA Career, Hernandez Ready to Grow with Raptors

“It’s awesome”.

The second last pick of the 2019 Draft exclaimed as he stood by his locker.

“Before being drafted by the [Toronto] Raptors, I talked to a bunch of guys around the league and they said that Toronto has the best development program,” Dewan Hernandez said to Gad Elmaleh of BallnRoll. “So when I heard my name called, I was just excited to start to put in work. Real work so I can become great in the league.”

For the 22-year old Miami native, the path to the NBA wasn’t the smoothest. After initially declaring for the draft following a solid sophomore season, Hernandez did not hire an agent and ultimately opted to return to Miami for his junior year with an eye on getting stronger and improving his all-around game. Unfortunately, his name was caught up in a 2017-18 NCAA Division I men’s basketball corruption scandal revolving around Christian Dawkins, an agent convicted of bribery, ruling him ineligible to continue playing for the Hurricanes.

“Obviously, I wasn’t able to play last year which affected my game,” explained Hernandez. “The Summer going into my junior year, I put in a lot of work because I was expecting to show up for my junior season. I thought I got a lot better, but what happened, happened. It sucks that I couldn’t play, but I took advantage of it, the time I had to get into the gym. To get better and when the time came at the combine, I showed people what I got. 

After failing to qualify for eligibility on two separate occasions, the 6-foot-10 center declared for the 2019 NBA Draft in late January.

“I asked God everyday,” said Hernandez when asked how he was able to maintain focus amidst a lost college season. “Prayed to stay focus, stay humble, stay hungry. I had to just stay hungry for my goals and it was enough to make it to the NBA.”

His focus and perseverance allowed him to hear his name called on Draft night, by the reigning NBA champions no less. In a way, his journey to the league has come full circle as Hernandez fell into the perfect situation. Raw yet toolsy, a few impressive Summer League appearances were enough of a sample size to show that Hernandez has got something special.

His goal for his rookie campaign is really quite simple: “just to get better, learn as much as possible.”

Surrounding by savvy veterans and elite coaches in a developmental factory that is the Toronto Raptors, Hernandez will be given ample time and all of the resources necessary to continue to grow as a basketball player. There is no question that he will continue to grind and will surely have the right people around him in Toronto who will continue to hold him accountable.

“Pretty much all of them,” commented Hernandez, pointing out who he has leaned on for guidance early on in his rookie campaign. “Me and K-Low [Kyle Lowry] talk here and there. He tries to build up my confidence. Like the other day when I got sent down to the G League, the first text I got was from him going, ‘keep your head up bro, don’t use this as disappointment, use this to get better’. Fred talks to me all the time. On the court, trying to help me get better as much as he can.”

“Pascal, I’ve been watching Pascal since like college. Just watch him develop and all the work he put in, his work ethic. How much he cares about the game. I’m pretty much talking to all the guy.”

Hernandez made his G League debut on November 8 against Grand Rapids, putting up 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbing 10 boards. There is no questioning the potential. For Hernandez, the process will take some time, but as he continues to grow and develop, it will come as a surprise to no one if he becomes yet another Raptors late round pick who blossoms into a reliable NBA player.

“When in doubt, go to the gym and try to get better.”

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