Maryland center Alex Len will declare for NBA draft

April 14, 2013
(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Maryland sophomore Alex Len will announce his plans to enter the NBA draft at a press conference this week, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Sunday night. He will forgo his final two years of college eligibility and is projected to be a lottery pick.

Yahoo! Sports was first to report the news.

The impending announcement comes as little surprise. Praised by scouts for his athleticism and potential, Len saw his draft stock skyrocket after debuting last season with a 23-point, 12-rebound performance against Kentucky and star freshman Nerlens Noel.

The 19-year-old Ukrainian center, who will turn 20 in mid-June before the draft, finished 2012-13 averaging 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds, and was named to the all-ACC defensive team, blocking a conference-high 2.1 shots per game. His rim presence in particular will likely translate well to the next level. According to data obtained from the video service Synergy Sports, opponents shot less than 35 percent on post-ups against Len this season.

“I think he’s a skilled, athletic, play-above-the-rim kid who – a big if on him will be if and how his body fills out,” an Eastern Conference executive said in March, under condition of anonymity. “That will determine a lot in terms of where his game and where his skillset takes him, because his body will determine not only the level of players that he’ll be able to guard, but the level of players who will be able to guard him.”

Through an intense workout and nutrition regimen, Len packed on around 35 pounds this offseason, showing his strength against some of the nation’s top post players in Noel and Duke’s Mason Plumlee. But Len also disappeared at times versus shorter, scrappier defenders, and must continue adding strength to compete at the next level.

NBADraft.net projects Len as the No. 7 overall pick. DraftExpress has him at 11th and ESPN.com’s Chad Ford projects him eighth. Len will likely be among the top centers drafted alongside Noel and Indiana’s Cody Zeller.

“You could make an argument that he could be one of the top bigs in the upcoming draft, should he put his name in,” the executive said. “As far as the things that he would probably need to improve on, number one I don’t think his body is quite ready to go up against NBA starting centers yet. I think that will be a big transition for him, kind of similar to what you’ve seen [2012 top overall pick] Anthony Davis go through a little in his first year, in terms of some of the matchups that he’s struggled in against.”

Maryland entered the offseason preparing for Len’s early departure, which leaves the Terrapins with nine scholarship regulars and three true post players – Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and incoming freshman Damonte Dodd.

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