In a draft devoid of a clear franchise player, the task for the Cavaliers is finding the player with the most upside. That very well could be Maryland center Alex Len, who appears to be creeping up draft boards despite mediocre numbers last season with the Terrapins. Len, for one, believes he could be the steal of the draft. “I think I have the biggest upside of the big guys,” he said. “Ten years from now, I’ll be the best player out of this draft.” The Cavs might believe that, too, which is why they’re considering him with the top overall pick. They have been linked to him since early in the college basketball season, when he destroyed Nerlens Noel in the Terrapins’ loss to Kentucky. Len had 23 points and 12 rebounds against Noel, previously presumed to be the best prospect in this draft. Noel, meanwhile, managed four points and nine rebounds in the victory. “He kind of surprised us a little bit,” Noel said last month at the combine. “We didn’t really know much about him before then.” Most everyone knows about Len now. He never picked up a basketball until the age of 13, but his previous love of soccer and gymnastics developed the type of footwork rare in 7-footers. Len is a legitimate 7-1 and 255 pounds and can use his agility to run the floor with ease. He has been compared to both Jonas Valanciunas and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, although Len’s ability to step out and make jumpers makes the comparisons to Ilgauskas seem more valid. “I watched [Ilgauskas] a lot growing up. He’s really famous overseas,” Len said. “I liked his style of play. With his size, he could step out and shoot, similar to my game. I would love to play like him.” Ilgauskas, of course, is a member of the Cavs’ front office and has been heavily involved in the college scouting process. He could serve as a mentor to Len, although the youngster seems more adjusted to American culture than Ilgauskas was as a rookie. Len’s freshman season at Maryland was sabotaged by a 10-game suspension due to eligibility issues stemming from his time in Ukraine. He was unable to practice with Maryland during the suspension and was still learning English, meaning he misunderstood coaches and teammates all the time and often botched play calls. He spent that first year in the U.S. learning the language and now speaks it fluently. Scouts believe Ilgauskas was a better player at this age than Len, who needs to get physically stronger to survive in the post. But basketball was never very popular in Ukraine. He might have never played the game if a basketball coach hadn’t walked by the window while Len was twirling around on a set of parallel bars in a gymnastics studio. He was the tallest and youngest kid in class, but he enjoyed the jumping and tumbling.
Maryland center Alex Len believes he’ll be best player in this class
Akron Beacon Journal | Jun 21