What has been anticipated around the Maryland basketball program for months has become reality: sophomore Alex Len will forgo the last two years of his college career, a source with knowledge of the situation said Sunday night.
Yahoo Sports first reported Sunday that the 7-1 center from Ukraine has put his name into the NBA draft. It is not known whether Len, who is expected to be a lottery pick, has hired an agent.
Len, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Terps last season, had until April 28 to put his name in the draft.
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In order to have retained his eligibility, Len would have had to notify the NCAA by last Wednesday.
“I’m very grateful for the two years I’ve spent at Maryland and for everyone that has supported me during my time here,” Len said in a news release Monday. “It’s been an honor to play here and I’ve learned so much. I want to thank Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff for believing in me and helping me grow as a player and a person. I also want to thank my teammates who were always there for me. We shared some great moments together. I’ve grown a lot, both on the court and off the court, over the past two years and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon privately has said since the season began that he expected Len would likely not be back for his junior year.
“I’m very proud of Alex and am excited for what the future holds for him,” Turgeon said in a news release. “To see the progress he’s made on the court, in the classroom and socially has been a truly rewarding experience. Alex has worked incredibly hard since he got here and he has earned this opportunity.”
While many NBA scouts don't believe that Len is physically or emotionally ready for the rigors of the league, they have that he will likely be among the top 14 players taken — possibly among the top 10.
Len won't tun 20 until June 16, 11 days prior to the 2013 draft.
Len has improved dramatically since first coming to Maryland last season, when he had to sit out the first 10 games of his college career after being suspended by the NCAA for his financial arrangement with a professional team in his home country.
After averaging 6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots as a freshman, Len improved as a sophomore while adding around 35 pounds to what had been a lanky 220-pound frame. But he was as erratic as the rest of the young Terps, and had a tendency to disappear for games at a time.
Len started the season with a 23-point, 12-rebound, four-blocked shot performance against Kentucky freshman and expected top draft pick Nerlens Noel in the opener at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He finished it by averaging 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and an astounding 5.5 blocks in Maryland's last two games in the NIT.
While he had several other terrific performances over the course of the season, including going for 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a win over then-No. 1 Duke at Comcast Center and Mason Plumlee back in February, he would often look lost playing against lesser teams and lesser players.
"NBA coaches and general managers draft on potential, and they see Len as being very athletic and someone who is very coachable and works hard," an NBA scout said during the season. "I would be very surprised if he doesn't come out and isn't a lottery pick. He's 7-1, can run the floor and has a pretty good jump shot. There are not too many guys like that in college."