Fer­nan­dez eye­ing his big­gest leap

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - An­dré Lowe Spe­cial Projects Ed­i­tor – Sports

VASHIL FER­NAN­DEZ has cer­tainly come a long way; and in a rel­a­tively short space of time.

It’s been just about a decade since he started se­ri­ously bounc­ing around a bas­ket­ball, but af­ter putting pen to pa­per on a deal with the NBA’s Mi­ami Heat on Oc­to­ber 17, the for­mer Cal­abar High stu­dent is one step closer to real­is­ing his dream of play­ing in the world’s top bas­ket­ball league.

“I am def­i­nitely pleased to have signed with the Heat, but I am giv­ing all thanks and praise to God on how He has made ev­ery­thing come into play just the way He want it to be. It’s been a long sum­mer of just work­ing hard and trust­ing Him, be­ing pa­tient and stay­ing calm and pray­ing; just wait­ing for that mo­ment for the door to open and just walk­ing through it,” Fer­nan­dez told the Sun­day Gleaner in a re­cent chat.

His story is an in­ter­est­ing one – from be­ing told that he would lose a leg to ris­ing above his chal­lenges and ex­celling both Vashil Fer­nan­dez ... had 119 blocked shots in his se­nior year at Val­paraiso Univer­sity in In­di­ana.

on the court and in the books, Fer­nan­dez is eye­ing his big­gest leap yet.

Liv­ing in Moneague, St Ann, with his grand­mother, aunt and over 15 sib­lings and other rel­a­tives,

Fer­nan­dez’s drib­ble to the top was a mat­ter of chance per­haps – or, as he would say, fate.

As a teenager, Fer­nan­dez would travel for the bet­ter part

of three hours from Moneague to Kingston, where he was ac­tu­ally born, to spend time with his mother and babysit his youngest sis­ter. It was on one of these trips to the cap­i­tal when he would be in­tro­duced to Cal­abar High coach Lud­low Barker. His life would for­ever change.

“I used to come to Kingston ev­ery week­end to babysit my youngest sis­ter when my mother had to work, and I was on the street cor­ner with one of my friends who sold co­conut wa­ter and sugar cane. One of his friends turned up and asked me if I knew how to play bas­ket­ball and I said, ‘Well, I could learn’. I didn’t know that much about it and he in­tro­duced me to Lud­low Barker, my high school coach, and that is where it all started for me.”

Barker saw his abil­i­ties and when an in­jury sit­u­a­tion threat­ened to de­rail his strides, even­tu­ally directed him to then Ja­maica Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Ajani Wil­liams, who, to this day, acts as a men­tor to the 24 year old, who, at one point, was told that a leg in­jury would re­quire am­pu­ta­tion.

HIS­TORIC PER­FOR­MANCE

Fer­nan­dez, who helped Ja­maica to a his­toric per­for­mance at the FIBAAmer­i­cas Cham­pi­onships in 2013, where wins over Ar­gentina and Brazil led to a first-time rank­ing for the Ja­maicans, would fur­ther con­firm his tal­ents in the NCAA sys­tem, where his 6’ 10” frame proved use­ful with 119 blocked shots in his se­nior year at Val­paraiso Univer­sity.

His per­for­mances on the col­lege scene cer­tainly turned some heads and when he de­clared for the 2016 NBA Draft, the Port­land Trail­blaz­ers and Toronto Rap­tors were among those who showed an in­ter­est.

In the end, it was the Heat who proved to be most se­ri­ous, step­ping in and putting a con­tract in front of the Ja­maican big man.

“It came out of nowhere. My agent called me one day and told me they (Heat) wanted me to try out with them. They called me back three weeks af­ter that and told me they were go­ing to sign me. I had to ask my­self who could it be but God. He’s the one that is mak­ing all of this hap­pen and I just want to give Him all the praise,” Fer­nan­dez said.

“I am ready for this step. If I need to go get more de­vel­op­ment, I am good with that, too. This is where I want to be. I am a good de­fen­sive player and that is what I can con­trib­ute and be a force out there to help this team as much as I can to get a cham­pi­onships,” added Fer­nan­dez.

The Ja­maican, who played two pre­sea­son games with the Heat, to­talling three points, one re­bound and a steal in 14:38 min­utes on the court, was yes­ter­day waived by the fran­chise ahead of the start of the sea­son and is ex­pected to con­tinue his growth at the Heat’s NBA De­vel­op­ment League team, the Sioux Falls Sky­force, which is based in South Dakota.

Fer­nan­dez, who pointed to Ha­keem Ola­ju­won and Heat ex­ec­u­tive Alonzo Mourn­ing as his in­spi­ra­tions, has been mar­ried for al­most two years and has two chil­dren, who he la­bel as his daily source of mo­ti­va­tion.

The holder of a bach­e­lors de­gree and two masters’ de­grees, Fer­nan­dez is tes­ta­ment to the value of hard work and faith. He hopes that his jour­ney will not only meet his am­bi­tions, but will also in­spire those who are look­ing on.

“With ev­ery­thing you do, the sky is the limit. One thing to know is that if you put God first and you are ded­i­cated, then any­thing is pos­si­ble. As long as you are do­ing your part, God will do his part,” Fer­nan­dez notes.

CON­TRIB­UTED

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