PHILADELPHIA -- Those who don't know Juan Fernandez or have only watched glimpses of his performances, rift with his trademark no-look passes on the hardwood, are quick to miscategorize the senior as flashy.
His ignorant critics waste no time in pointing out his tendency to launch a trey ball early in the shot clock, or point to what they call his “penchant” for bad turnovers. In the past season-and-half, the native Argentine has been much maligned by skeptics who expected “more”.
Today, as his hot hands guided the Owls to their tenth straight victory, a convincing 78-59 win over Duquesne at home, he silenced them all. With his stellar performance on the court, Fernandez silently answered back: “more what?”
Certainly not more shooting.
Fernandez drained a season-high six treys on seven attempts, and ended the afternoon session shooting 7-for-9 (77.8%) from the field. It was his third 20-point game of the season for the 6-4 guard who shares the point with the A-10s leading scorers in teammates Ramone Moore (18.8 ppg) and Khalif Wyatt (16.7 ppg).
“It's just one of those games,” he said of his performance from beyond the arc. “I haven't shot the ball that well in a while, so it feels good. That's the way it happens when you have three guards who share the ball.”
Certainly not more unselfish play.
He added six assists to help his teammates find the back of the twine as well, and recorded two steals. He also only had one turnover – and continues to be among the A10s leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.90)
“My job is mostly to pass the ball,” he said. “But when I'm feeling it, I'm going to shoot the ball a little more.”
Fernandez knows his role in the Fran Dunphy system as well as anyone on the team, but he's also cognizant of the fact that his teammates are always actively looking for the guy with the hot streak. Today, he stepped into that role.
“I thought he was terrific. He helped us out greatly in the first half,” said Dunphy in praise of Fernandez's performance. “He shot it tremendously. 6-for-7 on threes is outstanding, and then he goes for six assists and only one turnover.”
Those six assists may not have marked his career-high or season-high; instead, they were indicative of an achievement much greater -- one that only seven players in Temple's storied history have accomplished.
Fernandez eclipsed the 400-career assists category -- an honor he can add to his previous feat of exceeding 1,000 career points that came back on December 19 at Rice. He is one of six Temple players to record 400 or more assists and 1,000 or more points in his tenure at the university.
And he's done in it only three-and-a-half years.
“He's been a terrific player and a good guy for us,” Dunphy said when asked about Fernandez's accomplishment. “I'm very happy for his success. He will certainly go down in the annals of Temple basketball as a terrific player, and I've had the pleasure of coaching him for the past 3.5 years.”
So we return to the question that his cynics have posed on message boards, broadcasts and via the Internet time and time again: when will we see more?
Hopefully you're asking yourself “more what?”
Fernandez has an answer, and it has to do with wins.
“It's one of those things you enjoy as a player,” he said in regards to reaching the 400 assist mark. “But the most important thing now is just to keep winning -- to keep our streak going. You don't want to think too much about just the wins, but also the way you're playing. We just have to keep playing the same way.”
Fernandez and his teammates appear to be chugging along toward the post-season like an efficient and well-oiled machine, gathering wins and steam. But knowing Fernandez, he'll bring some highlight-reel passing, last-second buckets and clutch performances to the mix as well.
“He has these kinds of opportunities and moments within him and I wouldn't be disappointed if they present themselves more often from here on out,” Dunphy said with a grin.
So next time you hear the slither of a basketball as it slides through the braided twine while the clock ticks down in the background, don't be surprised if Juan Fernandez had a hand in it. Then ask yourself, “more what?”
by Kami Mattioli, Owlsports.com Columnist