By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun
6:58 PM EDT, June 17, 2013
COLLEGE PARK —
Except for the fact that his left foot is encased in a protective boot, and that most of his training is done sitting down, little has changed for former Maryland center Alex Len as he gets ready for next week's NBA draft.
The 7-1 center, who gave up his remaining college eligibility following his sophomore season with the Terps, seems to be working just as hard, if not harder, despite a partial stress fracture in his left ankle that was discovered in early April.
When he is not travelling around the country interviewing with NBA teams in advance of the June 27 draft, Len is at Comcast Center going through hours of grueling, tedious exercises geared toward strengthening his upper body, his hands and his healthy right leg.
Though the routines are much different than when he was fully upright and playing for Maryland, the approach Len took Monday was much the same as it had been ever since he showed up a tall skinny teenager from Ukraine in August 2011.
"It's a really exciting time," Len said prior to a 2 ½ hour session spent with Kyle Tarp, the director of basketball performance for the Maryland men's tean, as well as with David Adkins, an assistant women's coach who former Terps star Greivis Vasquez has credited with his growth. "But it's frustrating because I can't work out."
Yet Len knows that he is not alone in this pre-draft basketball inactivity among potential lottery picks.
Former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair torn ACL late in his freshman season. Former UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett has not participated in on-court workouts after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Noel, who was badly outplayed by Len when they met at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the season opener last November, has been widely mentioned as the top overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who reportedly also have interest in Len. Bennett is considered a top pick as well.
Still, Len believes that his visits with potential future employers have been productive.
To date, Len has met with the Phoenix Suns (No. 5), New Orleans Pelicans (6), Portland Trail Blazers (10) and Oklahoma City Thunder (12). He is also scheduled to meet with the Cavaliers, as well as the Charlotte Bobcats (4).
"Every team does different stuff, has a different approach," Len said Monday. "Some teams just try to get to see what kind of person I am. Some teams have me watch film with them. They want to get to know me and we get to know each other so the transition will be easier once I get there."
Len said that he doesn't have any particular favorite, not that it would make a difference in the end.
"Every team I visited so far is a pretty good fit for me," Len said. "We wouldn't be meeting with them if they weren't."
Len also clarified a statement he made at the recent NBA combine in Chicago, where he was quoted as saying that he thought in 10 years, he would be regarded as the best player to come out of the 2013 draft.
"What I meant is that I could be the best player among the big men," he said with a smile.
After watching hours of film from his sophomore season "to see my mistakes and see how I can improve," Len seems pleased with the progress he made. But he also thinks the ankle injury he believes he sustained during the second half of the year took away his aggressivenss.
"I think it was a great year for me. It could have been better if I was healthy," Len said.
Len said that he is scheduled to be examined Tuesday in Charlotte by his orthopedist, Robert Anderson, and hopes to be back on the court in a limited capacity by August and ready for the start of training camp in late September. At least until the draft, Len will continue to work out at the Comcast Center.
Tarp, whose workout program helped Len add more than 30 pounds of muscle between his freshman and sophomore years, said Monday that Len lost quite a bit of weight when he had a reaction to the anesthesia during surgery and was put on a liquid diet for several days.
In overseeing the training regimen that is part of the rehabillitation, Tarp said "we wanted to be as positive as possible, but a lot of it is out of control. The rehab is pretty structured. Our big thing was that we wanted to make sure the rest of the system stayed where it needed to be.
"We didn't want anything cropping up biomechanically from being on the crutches, being in a boot, being immobilized a lot of the time. There's a ton that we can do — that's how we approached it with Alex. It's a great opportunity to get better at a lot of things. He's works his tail off."
Len said he doesn't pay much attention to the NBA mock drafts that have mentioned him going every from No. 3 (to the Washington Wizards, who have yet to schedule a visit with Len) to No. 12. An NBA fan since his childhood in Ukraine, Len is caught up with following the NBA Finals and counting down to next week's draft.
"I can't wait to get drafted and get to training camp," he said. "I'm just focused on myself, just trying to get better."
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