Remember those rumblings about Maryland and Mark Turgeon adding a Ukrainian big man to their 2011 roster? Well, they weren't as wrong as they appeared; they just had the wrong big man. Per InsideMDSports, the Terrapins are adding 7-foot-2 Olexiy "Alex" Len to this season's roster:
In search of reinforcements for a depleted frontcourt, the University of Maryland basketball staff has gone international, adding 7-foot-2 Ukranian Olexiy Len.
Sources tell InsideMDSports.com that Len, who goes by Alex in the States, is on campus expected to enroll for fall classes, which begin Wednesday, and it's hoped he'll be declared academically in time to help a Maryland program that has just three post players -- none of them with vast experience -- this winter.
Sounds like it isn't done yet, then, if he's waiting on the academic clearance, though with news leaking out I'm guessing it's close. I've been told that the news was supposed to stay under wraps, though - a ship which has obviously already sailed - so I guess you never really know, but I'd feel pretty good about it right now.
Turgeon has been adamant that Maryland won't add a player just to add a player, so he must see something in Len that could help out. There's the size, of course - for a frontcourt so inexperienced (and, frankly, a little short on talent and size), someone 7-2 is a welcome addition.
But he does appear to have some real talent to go with the height. He recently competed in the FIBA U-18 Championship, averaging 16.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He led the event in offensive rebounds and blocks, was 4th in points per game, and came in second with 6 double-doubles at the event. And lest you think this is comparable to Haukur Palsson dropping 27 on the Faroe Islands, Len was playing in Division A against the stalwarts of European basketball, like Lithuania, Russia, and France.
He averaged more points and rebounds per game than Latvian Davis Bertans, who was drafted by the Pacers in this year's NBA Draft. His numbers were only slightly behind Jonas Valanciunas, who was the 5th pick in the draft: Valanciunas's 19 and 13 are pretty close to Len's 16 and 11.
It's worth mentioning, though, that Ukraine had a poor tourney and got bounced out of the "real" tournament pretty quickly, competing instead in the "classication rounds." So whereas guys like Valanciunas and Bertans got their points against each other, Len played teams like Bulgaria and Sweden, and he obviously did much better against the worse competition.
There's also two videos of Len out there, though they're both workout vids, and we all know how good those can look. Still, take a watch:
Truth be told, he kind of looks like Berend Weijs plus four inches, physically speaking. In terms of his game, the workout at least looks like he's trying to be a 7-2 wing. Not a lot of post moves in there, but a lot of ballhandling and jump shots. I suppose that'd cause some matchup problems, though I'd frankly prefer to see him go to work a little more.
And because I know the question will be asked: yes, it would appear that he's going to take up a scholarship. That's one less for Maryland to work with for the next three years - IMS is saying he's missing a year of eligiblity - but he has potential and it's not like Turgeon only has a couple of 'ships to work with. Not everyone can be a star, and he fills a role.