Maryland basketball player Alex Len gives first media interview

Alex Len's command of English has improved enough that Maryland made the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian center available to the media today for the first time.

I will have a full-length story on Len later today with lots more details.


In the meantime, here are some highlights:

* Len said his game suffered last season because he had so much difficulty with the language that he couldn't always understand what plays were called. "The first three months was the hardest because I didn't know any language. I knew just a little bit," Len said.

* Len's body has changed in that he has added needed bulk. He got pushed around some in the paint last season -- not unexpected since he was an 18-year-old freshman.

"I think he's a lot tougher," said John Auslander, Len's roommate and teammate. "He's put on about 20-25 pounds. He knows what he wants to do, he's more confident, more assertive. When he gets in the post, he's not in a rush."

He now weighs about 248 pounds.

* Coach Mark Turgeon said: "Our whole thing when the season ended is, 'Let's make Alex tougher.' When he says he was grinding, he was grinding in the weight room, conditioning. He's so much further along, I can't even explain it."

Len is naturally a finesse player. He is very coordinated for his size and can shoot well from outside. Turgeon said Len will even shoot the 3 this season.

But Turgeon said he has forged a compromise with Len under which the player has also worked diligently on his inside, post game -- on the "power" game. Turgeon said Len is a natural shot blocker who is adept at keeping the ball in play.  "He's close to being twice as good in the low post," the coach said.

* Len said his athletic career began as a gymnast when he was a boy. Maybe that explains why he did a cartwheel when he was introduced to the crowd last season during Maryland Madness. He said he liked gymnastics because he liked watching Jackie Chan films and saw how the actor moved.