Treatment of Terps center Alex Len's ankle injury during season called into question

After an X-ray taken of Alex Len's painful left ankle in early March came back negative, the the former Maryland center told his coaches that the pain began to decrease, a university spokesman said Saturday in explaining why Len didn't undergo an MRI until nearly a month later.

The treatment by the school's training staff of Len — the potential No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft — was called into question during an interview the former Terp conducted recently with NBA analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons as part of their regular "Job Interview" segment with potential lottery picks.

During the 11-minute interview, Len was quoted as saying that he told members of the team's training staff about the injury and "we did a lot of treatment. Icing, stuff like that, steam. But we decided to do MRI after the season. After the season, we found out I had a problem in there. "

Rose said to Simmons in the interview: "Bill, when you're in college, they don't want you to get it [an MRI] during the season. It benefits them for you to finish the season." Simmons responded: "I don't like that. The MRI should have happened before."

The Maryland spokesman told The Baltimore Sun on Saturday that three days after the initial set of X-rays were taken, team doctors told coach Mark Turgeon that they agreed with the initial diagnosis and asked the team's training staff to monitor the 7-foot-1 center's injury. Part of the treatment included holding Len out of a number of practices.

Len continued to play in games. He scored 20 points and had seven rebounds in a three-point loss to North Carolina in the ACC tournament semifinals March 16 and finished the season with 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots in a National Invitation Tournament semifinal loss to Iowa in New York on April 2.

The MRI was taken within days of that season-ending loss.

It revealed a partial stress fracture of the ankle and Len, who was on the verge of announcing that he was going to enter the NBA draft, was given the option to either put his left foot in a boot or have surgery to stablilize the ankle. He underwent surgery in Charlotte, N.C., on April 27.

Len said in an interview with The Sun last Monday that he began feeling some pain in the ankle with about two months to go in the season. Turgeon said toward the end of the season that Len was allowed to miss some practices to rest his legs.

While Len said last Monday that he thought he could have played better had he not been hurt, there was no indication that anything was wrong with the sophomore from Ukraine. In fact, he had some of his best games during the last six weeks, including Maryland's last two NIT games.

In a Feb. 16 upset of then No. 2 Duke at Comcast Center, Len finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots while getting Mason Plumlee into foul trouble.

After playing sparingly because of matchup issues against smaller teams in Maryland's first two NIT games against Niagara and Denver, Len averaged 15.5 points, 11 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots against Alabama in the quarterfinals and Iowa in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Despite the injury and subsequent surgery, which could keep Len out between four and six months, Len is expected to go in the first six picks in Thursday's NBA draft. There has been speculation the past two weeks that the Cleveland Cavaliers could select Len with the No. 1 overall pick.

Neither Turgeon nor Len were available for comment Saturday.

don.markus@baltsun.com