By Rick Bonnell
So here’s Maryland center Alex Len’s sales pitch to be a top pick in the June 27 NBA draft:
“I’m 7-1, 7-2 with shoes, I’m pretty agile and I can step out on the floor and shoot. That makes me a little different.’’
Then Len, who’s from the Ukraine, noted how often he’s compared to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cleveland Cavaliers center who played in the NBA from 1997 through 2011.
Ilgauskas, also an Eastern European, is a good analogy: A guy with true-center size who could shoot well enough to place defenders in predicaments. Ilgauskas scored nearly 11,000 career points, and if Len does that he’d be well worth the Bobcats’ No. 4 pick.
But there’s another way the Ilgauskas-Len comparison works against Len.
Ilgauskas had chronic foot problems over much of his pro career. Len is in a walking boot, after having surgery in April to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle.
Noted Charlotte foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson did that surgery. Len’s rehabilitation schedule suggests he’ll be cleared to start running in August and be fully recovered by the time training camp starts in October. Len had a follow-up appointment with Anderson Tuesday and was cleared to walk without crutches.
So he’ll miss summer league, which rookies need. Two other candidates for the Bobcats’ No. 4 pick – Kentucky center Nerlens Noel (torn ACL) and Nevada-Las Vegas forward Anthony Bennett (rotator-cuff surgery) – are also unable to work out for teams leading up to the draft.
Asked how he’d feel about playing for the Bobcats, Len was effusive about one thing:
“I would love to play with Kemba (Walker).”
Len, a gymnast in his youth (he says he did it because he likes Jackie Chan movies), started playing basketball at the relatively late age of 13. He averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a Maryland sophomore before turning pro.
The coaching he got overseas provided a more varied skill set than you typically see from American big men. European centers are expected to learn how to dribble and shoot like guards.
“If you know the European style of basketball, big men do whatever they want to do. In high school, I could step out and shoot it. I think that helped me,’’ Len said. “It just makes me a little different from players over here.’’
Len says his skill set will likely fit better in the NBA than it did in college basketball. As he noted, better 3-point shooting in the pros creates better spacing, so it’s harder to constantly double-team the center.
Certainly the Bobcats could use an inside scoring presence. Last season shooting guard Gerald Henderson was the Bobcats’ best post-up threat.
The Bobcats hold their first pre-draft workouts Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Look for Indiana big man Cody Zeller, younger brother of former North Carolina center Tyler, to be among the participants.