As Maryland wrestles with inconsistency, it can look to the up-and-down work Alex Len. In the four ACC games that the 7-foot-1 sophomore has scored in single digits, the Terrapins have lost. Some of it has been Len. Some of it has been the defenses he has faced.
On Saturday in an 83-81 win over Duke, Len had perhaps his best game, out-scoring Duke national player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee 19-4, out-rebounding him 9-3, and out-blocking him 3-0. Three days later in a 69-58 loss at Boston College, Len matched his season low with four points on 1-of-5 shooting, though still managing eight rebounds and three blocks.
“He’s a little inconsistent. Give the defense some credit. Guys around him have to step up and play better. That would help things,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought we challenged Alex the same way before the Duke game. It didn’t work as well. He seemed really lethargic the whole game, heavy-legged.”
Saturday when Maryland (18-8, 6-7) plays host to Clemson (13-12, 5-8), the Terps will look to get Len going early. They’re clearly a better team when he’s involved.
“Once he gets the ball on the block he’s facing double-teams. That’s just something he has to get used to,” sophomore Dez Wells said. “Going from being the player he was last year to being the player he is this year was a big jump. It happened really fast for him. I’m pretty sure his head is spinning sometimes.”
Len is rated No. 8 by NBADraft.net and No. 6 by cbssports.com among players who will be eligible for this year’s draft. When discussing Len’s status this year, Turgeon has often said that the Ukranian import came to America to play in the NBA, suggesting that he expects Len to declare for the draft.
In his first year at Texas A&M, Turgeon was in this situation with De’Andre Jordan, now a rising star with the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan left the Aggies after averaging 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman. Though projected to go much higher in the draft, Jordan lasted until the 35th overall pick.
“I knew De’Andre was leaving. Physically he was ready. He was almost 7-1, 280,” Turgeon said. “We’re not worried about that. We’re worried about making Alex the best player we can possibly make him, giving him confidence, making him tougher.”
One way for Len to improve his draft stock, which has dipped slightly since the start of the season, would be to lead Maryland to the NCAA tournament. He has the capability, but gaining consistency has been difficult.
“When he’s dialed in, he’s really, really good,” Turgeon said. “Just because they got him high on this draft board, I think everybody’s expectations are so high for this kid. He’s 19 years old. He’s having a great year. He’s our most improved player.”
But some days his improvement is more apparent than others.