The first glimpse of Alex Len came with the lights out at Comcast Center, when his image flashed on the overhead video board. "Hey Terps fans, I'm ready to play."
The small crowd roared.
Seconds later, the cheers grew even louder when the 7-1 freshman from the Ukraine was introduced as part of Maryland's starting lineup against Albany. So much for first-year coach Mark Turgeon keeping Len and the expectations under wraps for awhile.
I made the mistake once of saying a player came to College Park with equal doses of mystery and media hype was having a Joe Smith moment, in honor of the former Terp great who quickly went from unknown to All-American.
I can say with confidence that Len is not going to be the next Jin Soo Kim.
The game began with Len taking a lob from Sean Mosley on Maryland's second possession and dunking it in with his right hand.
It continued with a nice 14-footer baseline jump, three more dunks and some pretty good presence on the defensive end . He did show some nerves - four turnovers and two goaltending calls, one at each end.
At times, he helped transform the Terps into a team that looked completely different than they had during the 10 games Len had sat out under NCAA sanction.
They were able to run with more authority to the rim, knowing that Len would be there to cleanup their misses. But they also looked like a team that had barely scraped by a recent string of low mid-majors.
Leading by as many as many as 12 points with a little under nine minutes left, Maryland found itself in another tight game. Albany cut its deficit to two on the strength of some unconscious 3-point shooting.
Len finished the half with a dunk to give the Terps a 44-39 lead at halftime. He has still not missed a shot as a college player, going 5 of 5 from the field.
Here are a couple of other things to look at going into the second half:
*Is every team going to shoot lights out from beyond the arc against Maryland? The Great Danes - yes, that's Albany's nickname - are 6 of 10 on 3s and looking very much Mount St. Mary's (11 of 21) did at Comcast Center a few weeks ago. With Len near the basket, Maryland defenders shouldn't worry so much about doubleteaming inside and concern themselves with kickouts to the wings.
*When is Nick Faust going to start looking comfortable in Maryland's offense. The freshman from City took it to the basket a couple of times and scored, but his jump shot is still scary. He added a couple of airballs to his growing total. Listen to your coach Nick and take the game from the inside out and your J will start to fall.
*Are the Terps capable of blowing anybody out? Their current four-game winning streak was by a combined 19 points, with the largest margin of victory by seven over Notre Dame. Maryland might be the only team in the country with seven single-digit wins at this stage of the season.
We'll see how the second half shapes up for the Terps and Len. It's pretty interesting to watch it unfold.