The Miami Heat announced on Monday that they have signed former Valparaiso University standout center Vashil Fernandez. Fernandez becomes the first Crusader to ink an NBA contract since Ron Howard, and is looking to become the first former Valpo player to appear in a regular season NBA game since Bryce Drew.
“As a Valpo Basketball staff, we are extremely excited for the opportunity that lies ahead for Vashil,” said Crusader head coach Matt Lottich. “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!”
Fernandez evolved into one of the nation’s top defensive presences during his time at Valpo, culminating with a senior season where he was named the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com and led the nation with an average of 3.31 blocked shots/game. The only two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year in league history, Fernandez set a new program record as a senior with 119 blocked shots – easily surpassing his junior year record total of 98.
Fernandez broke Valpo’s career blocked shots record during the middle of his senior season, closing out his Crusader career with 289 total blocks. He also paced the nation as a senior in block percentage and anchored a defense which finished the year ninth in both points allowed per game and adjusted defensive efficiency. Fernandez also averaged 7.3 rebounds per game as a senior and finished out his Valpo career with 673 rebounds, good for 11th in program history, while on the offensive side of the ball, he hit at a 54.8% clip from the field over his four years.