Providence Crier Player Series Spotlight – Will Justyn Fernandez Redshirt?

On the August 30th episode of the Providence Crier PodcasBOC & The Crier drafted PC’s roster for our player preview series. We take a look at each player and what fans may expect this upcoming season.

Justyn Fernandez was brought to Providence from George Mason alongside Ticket Gaines and Josh Oduro. Fernandez was quite the coup for Kim English when he was at George Mason, as 4 star Top 150 players don’t routinely enroll at Atlantic 10 programs. Fernandez was arguably one of the top recruits to ever enroll at George Mason, but he did not play as much as one would anticipate a player of his stature to play, averaging only 14 minutes.

The path to playing time was always going to be difficult for Fernandez at Providence in 2023-2024. The leap from high school to A-10 proved to be a steep learning curve for Fernandez, and one would naturally expect a similar learning curve from the A-10 to the gauntlet that is the Big East.

The 2023-2024 roster wasn’t doing Fernandez any favors either. The Friars are loaded at his position (I’d classify him as a 2/3). He would be competing with Devin Carter and Corey Floyd Jr. for time, and everybody would agree he’d be a clear third in the pecking order out of that trio. We’ll likely see Dual eat into some of his minutes as the second guard in a line-up with Pierre and Carter/CFJr. moving to the 3. This area of the team is the clear strength of the roster, in my opinion.

All of the above hasn’t even addressed the elephant in the room: the health of Justyn Fernandez. Fernandez had a serious knee injury that required surgery in the early summer months. It is serious enough that Fernandez may be considering a redshirt year to get fully healthy. As much as I love the idea of Fernandez coming off the bench as an athletic, high flying wing, Providence has the luxury of bringing him along slowly due to the aforementioned depth.

In an ideal world, Fernandez is completely healthy by the start of the season and provides a nice spark off the bench. He shows that he has completely recovered from his knee injury and still possesses the same athleticism that made him a blue chipper coming out of high school. Realistically, English plays this very cautiously, and Fernandez is brought along slowly. Fernandez can lean into developing behind an All-Big East caliber player in Devin Carter and sharpen his skillset in this redshirt year. I’m hopeful that his best asset (athleticism) isn’t diminished due to the injury.

As I discussed when he transferred to Providence, this recruiting win was massive because both he and Floyd Jr. have three years of eligibility entering 2023-2024. The wing position at Providence is well stocked for the next few years with Floyd Jr., Fernandez, Barron, Santoro and Mela. I was very bullish when Fernandez committed to Providence and still am, but I am in wait and see mode for a variety of reasons.

For one, I need to see how he bounces back from this injury. For a player who relies on his athleticism, a lower body injury is just about the worst thing that can happen. Secondly, his freshman year was a bit underwhelming if we are being objectively honest. He only averaged 4 points a game. I didn’t have high expectations for him this year even before the injury because it was another level up in competition, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire at George Mason in his one year there. My excitement about his commitment was for the years to come, when he is a veteran in the Big East.

If it were up to me (and thankfully for Friar fans…it isn’t), I would redshirt Fernandez and get him ready to try to seize a starting 2/3 spot in 2024. I’d be surprised if Carter returns after this year, and that departure would open up a starting spot for Fernandez. Additionally, the year redshirting will give him the best chance to get 100% healthy. You don’t want to put a 75% Fernandez on the floor in the Big East, as this league could swallow him whole and create a less than confident Fernandez.

In short, we’ll know a lot more about Justyn’s role on this team in the next 2-3 months, but I’m hopeful Coach Kim English plays the long game with Mr. Fernandez. It will be in the best long term interest for player and program.

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