COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland men's basketball team finally got some positive news when it learned that Alex Len — the promising, shot-blocking center from Antratsit, Ukraine, who has intrigued Terps fans — can practice immediately and play this season but sit out 10 games.
Len should be available before the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule opens. Maryland's 11th game is against Albany on Dec. 28. The first conference game is Jan. 8 at North Carolina State.
Maryland had been awaiting the decision of the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Staff. Len's eligibility — based on amateurism guidelines — was under study because of a previous stint with a club overseas. That, apparently, is the reason he must sit 10 games.
"We appreciate the NCAA's cooperative review of Alex's case," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a news release. "However, it has been a difficult situation in light of Alex's educational pursuits. Alex and his family have been very patient and honest throughout this process, which speaks well of his character."
Len, whose English is rapidly improving, enrolled at Maryland in the fall and was initially involved in workouts with the team before he had to stop practicing while his eligibility continued to be reviewed.
It's uncertain whether Len will play when Maryland hosts an exhibition Friday night against Northwood. The exhibition does not count as one of the 10 games the player must miss.
Len, who wears No. 25, played in a late-night scrimmage during Maryland Madness last month. Fans who remained at Comcast Center until about midnight saw the 7-footer repeatedly dunking and grabbing rebounds.
"Alex has been working very hard to prepare himself for this opportunity," Turgeon said in a news release. "We look forward to having him on the court and to see how he'll fit into what we want to do offensively and defensively."
Maryland is lacking in depth and size and found out recently that point guard Pe'Shon Howard will miss as many as 10-12 weeks with a broken foot.
The school had learned over the summer that forward Haukur Palsson was leaving to pursue a basketball career professionally in Europe. His inside presence could have been valuable for a team that also lost center Jordan Williams to the NBA after his sophomore season.
With Len's return to practice, Maryland will have eight players on the roster — excluding Howard — who were not originally walk-ons.
Len only recently turned 18 years old, "so the kid's still growing, still getting his coordination, but he's got a chance," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said in an interview several weeks ago. "He's one of those guys at the end of the year I think you'll look and say he's our most improved player because it's all so new to him and God gave him so much ability that he should improve at a pretty high rate."