Alex Len played it coy Wednesday when asked if he'd return to Maryland for his junior season or declare for the NBA draft.
The Terps' 7-foot-1 center actually prefaced his remarks by saying he hadn't thought about it, which is hard to believe, given he's projected as pretty much a consensus lottery pick if he goes pro.
"I'm just trying to go ahead day by day and play every game," he told reporters in Greensboro, N.C., where the Terps will play Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament tonight. "Right now I'm focused on Wake Forest and I'm just going to think about it after the season."
If he can get lottery pick money, he's gone. And everyone knows it.
Sports Illustrated projects him as one of the top four picks. No way a player can turn down that kind of loot. And the fact he's averaging only 11.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, often looks lost in the paint and disappears from the Terps offense for long stretches probably won't discourage NBA teams from taking a flyer on the big kid from Ukraine.
Whoever drafts him will send him to a big man's camp, maybe the one Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon runs in Houston, where pros like Amare Stoudamire and Tyson Chandler of the Knicks and Marcin Gorat and Robin Lopez of the Suns have sought instruction.
They'll work Len to death on post moves, drop-steps, sealing off his man to receive an entry pass and anything else they can think of to make him better and more assertive on offense.
But Len isn't without his strengths, even at the end of what is generally regarded as a disappointing season for him in College Park.
He's athletic -- he did cartwheels when introduced to Maryland fans at his Midnight Madness debut two years ago. And when's the last time you saw a 7-footer strong enough and agile enough to do that?
He runs the court well, has soft hands and good shooting form on his turnaround jumper. And he doesn't shy away from contact or seem intimidated by the other physical big men in the ACC.
Finally, he's immensely coachable and desperately wants to be a better all-around player.
But he needs to vastly improve his offensive skills to be any kind of a presence in the NBA.
A good game against Wake and another strong performance against Duke Friday night, providing Maryland gets past the Demon Deacons, might play a factor in where he ends up in the draft. So would a good showing if Maryland ends up playing in the NIT.
It's weird to think that a 7-footer who's been held to less than 10 points in four of his last six games and who hasn't had a double-double since Jan. 22, is ready to play in the NBA.
But that doesn't seem to matter anymore.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun