Alex Len wowing fans as most-improved Terps player

January 08, 2013|By Kevin Cowherd | The Baltimore Sun

Going into tomorrow night’s game against Florida State at Comcast Center, two things seem clear about the 13-1 Maryland Terps: they have a terrific freshman class and they’ll be fun to watch this season. I also think they’ll be a real force in the ACC, which seems pretty ordinary once you get past – here’s a shocker -- Duke.

And if you like big-man play -- and I do -- no one will be more fun to watch than 7-foot-1 sophomore center Alex Len.

If you haven’t seen Len yet this season, know this: his game is light-years from what it was last year -- on both ends of the floor.

His post-up moves have improved immensely. His footwork is much crisper. He’s got nice soft hands and manages to catch even the craziest of bullet passes from Pe’Shon Howard down low. And he strokes his turn-around jump shot with confidence even 10 or 15 feet from the basket.

Since he put on 30 pounds of muscle -- which he needed; he wasn’t exactly The Hulk last season -- he’s emerged as more of a banger and a force on the defensive boards, too. And his shot-blocking skills, already formidable as a freshman, are even better now.

Did I mention he’s got a mean streak, too? We should probably mention that. This is definitely a guy who doesn’t figure to be intimidated by anyone.

In Maryland’s 94-71 rout of Virginia Tech on Saturday at Comcast Center, Len got tangled up with the Hokies’ 6-9 junior forward Cadarian Raines -- a tough guy who hustles and scraps on every play -- as the two went up for a rebound.

The ball squirted away from both. But as Len began to lose his balance, he scowled and jabbed the back of his arm into Raines’ chest, pushing him to the floor in a move of pure frustration.

Raines popped up quickly and glared at Len. But Len never looked back. He was still scowling as he stalked to the foul line to join his teammates for a quick huddle. And the next time down the floor, Len posted up Raines with a vicious hip check that looked like something out of the NHL.

Go watch Len while you can, Terps fans, because he could be in the NBA next season.

I thought all the talk earlier this season about Len possibly being an NBA draft lottery pick was a lot of hooey -- until I saw him against the Hokies.

I’m not saying he’s ready to step in against Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler right now. But by the end of the season, he’ll be that much better, and the NBA will definitely be calling.

Until then, I’ll enjoy watching him in College Park, like everyone else.

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