Maryland coach Mark Turgeon couldn't believe the progress he saw in the time he spent with Terrapins center Alex Len.
“He's grown up a lot,” Turgeon said when Len declared for this year's NBA Draft in mid-April. “In two years, I've never seen a kid learn the language, learn the game — the European game is a lot different than ours. Just the way he progressed, I don't know if I've been around a player who has improved as much as Alex.”
Turns out, Turgeon wasn't alone in what he witnessed.
Shortly after declaring for the draft, Len began to climb numerous mock draft boards. Some suggested Len might be taken before Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, who has since become the overwhelming choice as the potential No. 1 pick.
In a season-opening game last Nov. 9 against Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Len had 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots facing Noel.
“I think he (Len) can be the No. 1 pick,” Turgeon said. “They're talking about the other guy (Noel) being No. 1, and you guys saw the same game I saw when we played them (Kentucky). ... This kid's going to be special.”
Len is now slated to go between Nos. 4-10 on the board, but that status could slip a bit.
In mid-May, Len had surgery to stabilize a stress fracture in his left ankle and will require 4-6 months of recovery time.
As a result, Len will have missed individual workouts, the draft combine, summer league and probably part of training camp, which would put him considerably behind schedule as he enters the league.