With Alex Len headed to the NBA, how will the Terps replace their 7-1 center?
The Len Replacement Committee will be convening shortly at Comcast Center.
For someone who has been around the Maryland basketball program, this is not like replacing Joe Smith after he was the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft. To tell you the truth, it’s not like finding another Lonny Baxter after the Terps won the national championship in 2002.
Both Smith (20.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.9 blocks) and Baxter (15.2, 8, 2.0) averaged more in their last seasons in College Park than Len (11.9, 7.8, 2.1) did in his. In both of those cases, Gary Williams adjusted.
Mark Turgeon will, too.
I know a lot of fans were not happy with the progress made by freshman Shaquille Cleare, whose playing time dropped precipitously toward the end of the season. I also know that Charles Mitchell, despite his energy and surprising productivity as a freshman, is more a power forward than center.
Unless Cleare suddenly makes an unbelievable leap as a sophomore – something that might be possible given his work ethic and the minutes that now will be available with Len’s departure – I expect Turgeon to use a combination of Cleare, Mitchell and incoming freshman Damonte Dodd.
Considering the trend in basketball in both college and NBA to “go small,” I think the Terps will play a combination of the three along with Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a 6-9 shooter whose body type and skill set has been compared to Duke’s Ryan Kelly, as well as burgeoning star Dez Wells.
Though neither Cleare nor Mitchell are proven shot blockers, Dodd might be. He’s a legitimate 6-9 and from what he showed at Massanutten Academy this season, he might be further along in his development than even Turgeon hoped.
Len was a reluctant star who often seemed confused as to what was being asked of him. He never complained, at least publicly, about not getting enough touches, saying that Turgeon wanted him to play defense and rebound.
I often thought there was a lack of understanding – either because of language issues or a lack of basketball sophistication on the big Ukrainian’s part – between Turgeon and his center. It will be interesting to see how Len develops in the NBA, and whether his next coach will get as frustrated with Len as Turgeon did on occasion.
It will also be interesting to see how Turgeon adjusts to losing the athletic 7-1 sophomore.
The Len Replacement Committee will be convening at Comcast Center shortly.