Former Valparaiso Men’s basketball standout center Vashil Fernandez has signed with Miami Heat.
Fernandez, known for his defensive dominance, was a two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. He is the only one to accomplish such a feat. He’s expected to stay with the Heat for the rest of training camp before finding out where he’ll be placed next.
“I’m thankful to God for the opportunity,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been working out all summer. I’m grateful that (the Heat) want me to be a part of their program. I’m excited to be here and a part of this organization and be able to grow and get better each year.”
Fernandez, a Jamaican native who was highly respected during his time on campus, is a family man as well. In back-to-back senior nights for the big man, he proposed to his now wife, Bridget Fernandez, and announced they were having a child. Since then, they’ve welcomed their second daughter, born in early August.
“It’s been a long summer,” Vashil Fernandez said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work and putting my trust in God. It’s all coming together now and I’m happy about that. Staying (in the United States), it was something that is the best opportunity, not just for me, but for my family.”
Fernandez had a fantastic career while at Valparaiso. He ended up leading the NCAA in blocks per game during his senior season, averaging 3.31 a game. He set the program record for blocks in a season, with 119. He finished his career with 289 blocks, another program record. Fernandez will look for the chance to continue his defensive dominance, whether it’s in the NBA or with Miami’s D-League team, Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“I’m just hoping that I can do the best I can, and I hope for the opportunity to get better if I end up going to Sioux Falls,” Fernandez said.
For the Valparaiso basketball program itself, any time a player makes it to the NBA, it’s a big deal. Fernandez is the first Crusader to sign an NBA contract since Ron Howard. Bryce Drew is the last Valparaiso player to appear in a regular season NBA game, which was back on Feb. 18, 2004.
“As a Valpo Basketball staff, we are extremely excited for the opportunity that lies ahead for Vashil,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich told Valpo Athletics. “This opportunity couldn’t happen to a better guy and a better teammate. I think that Miami saw what we here at Valpo have known for a long time – that Vashil was the best defensive player in the country in college basketball, and that he can bring those defensive skills to the highest tier of basketball and perform at an elite level. The attitude he brings with him to work each and every day adds value to the team as well. We expect nothing but great things for Vashil and wish him nothing but the best, and are excited to be big Miami Heat fans now.”
The Miami Heat have two preseason games left and then a decision will be made on where Fernandez will end up within the organization.