Maryland sophomore big man Alex Len arrived at the NBA draft combine on crutches, unable to participate in any drills and limited to being a spectator after having surgery to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle.
The injury might have affected Len’s stock in the draft, since he won’t be able to walk freely until around the time some team selects him on June 27 at Barclays Center. Len took off his cast and got stitches removed from his foot three days ago. He won’t be fully recovered until the regular season begins but remains confident about what he will be able to accomplish on the next level.
“I think maybe 10 years from now, I’ll be the best player out of this draft,” Len said on Friday at Attack Athletics gym in Chicago.
Len is still a month shy of his 20th birthday and believes that he showed enough in two seasons at Maryland to warrant having a team take him high in the lottery. He averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds last season, despite playing the final two weeks of the season with what he originally thought was simply a sprained left ankle. An impressive 23-point, 12 rebound effort against projected No. 1 overall pick Nerlens Noel and two more solid outings in wins over Duke convinced the Ukraine native that he is ready to take his game to the next level.
“I think I did pretty well that game,” Len said of his performance in the season opener against Kentucky. “I think I was able to show NBA scouts what I could be in the future. I kind of showed my potential. After this season, I got more confident and talked to my coaches. In NBA, you have individual coaches with you. I decided to come out early, because I want to progress quicker. The developmental process will be faster.”
The Washington Wizards have the eighth-best odds at winning Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery and will be looking to bolster their front line or add another perimeter scorer. Len said his meeting with the Wizards on Thursday “went well” and could possibly slide down to Washington if it is unable to move up in the draft. The native of Ukraine wouldn’t mind staying close to his new adopted home.
“It’s kind of my hometown, like in Maryland,” Len said. “I would love to play for that team. Maryland is already I have a second family there; it would be great to play there.”
Len was disappointed about the timing of the surgery, since it would cost him the chance to impress NBA talent evaluators during individual workouts, but he felt that the procedure was the best decision for his future.
“I didn’t really have to do the surgery, but the doctor told me it was going to help me in the long run,” Len said. “I’m just trying to be proactive. Do the right things, be smart about it. when doctors tell me I’m ready to play, I will play. It’s hard, because you want to be out there and show what you can do. It [stinks] to not be able to do that.”