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Posted at 10:25 AM ET, 12/29/2011

Finally cleared to compete, Alex Len dazzles in debut for Maryland

Though he and his staff pride themselves on the quality of their scouting reports, Albany Coach Will Brown confessed that the squad entered Wednesday’s game against Maryland knowing next to nothing about Terrapins freshman center Alex Len.

Brown’s first uneasy feeling came about 20 minutes before tip-off, when Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli told one of the Albany assistants that former NBA coach Larry Brown, a mentor of Coach Mark Turgeon, had predicted after watching a Maryland practice that Len was going to be an NBA lottery pick.

“That’s the last thing you want to hear about the opposing team when you know nothing about him and you’re about to take the court,” Brown said.

Then he watched the long-limbed, 225-pound Len hit a three-pointer during warmups, which heightened his anxiety, and he hoped that the Ukrainian was simply a finesse player who couldn’t stand up to physical play in the paint.

Not so, as Brown and Maryland fans soon learned, with Len jamming in the first of his five dunks less than one minute into the game, which Maryland won, 83-72.

The game marked the first start for sophomore point guard Pe’Shon Howard, who had returned from a broken left foot just five days earlier. And it marked the college debut of Len (who also started) after he had been suspended the first 10 games as punishment for violating NCAA eligibility rules while competing in his native Ukraine.

Turgeon’s starting lineup skewed young, with two freshmen (Len and Ashton Pankey), two sophomores (Howard and Terrell Stoglin) and senior Sean Mosley. And the result — with the Terrapins notching seasonhighs in points (83), rebounds (49) and assists (19) — bodes well for the balance of the season.

Len “makes a world of difference for them,” Brown said of the Ukrainian big man, who played 27 minutes and contributed 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. “He altered shots; he blocked shots. He’s a bailout guy offensively. You just throw the ball up in the air, and he’ll go get it.”

Brown offered praise for the 6-3, 195-pound Howard, as well, noting that his command at the point freed Stoglin to focus on shooting (Stoglin led the Terrapins with 22 points) and his defensive skills impressed, too.

“Now that [Maryland has] their full team, I think they’ll do well in the ACC,” Brown said. “Outside of [North] Carolina and Duke, they’ll be right there with everybody — especially if Len gets more acclimated.”

Maryland opens ACC play at N.C. State on Jan. 8, giving the revamped Terrapins two more games (Saturday against Samford and Tuesday against Cornell) to adjust to their new roles.

By  |  10:25 AM ET, 12/29/2011

 
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