In case there was any doubt, Alex Len's performance Friday in Maryland's 72-69 loss to No. 3 Kentucky generated some attention.
In the here and now, the ACC named Len its Player of the Week after the 7-foot-1 center established career highs with 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Wildcats. Seven of the sophomore's boards came on the offensive end and overall Len hit on 10-of-18 from the floor in 32 minutes. For good measure he tacked on four blocks, which matched a career high.
Len's performance against a Kentucky frontcourt loaded with NBA prospects, including heralded freshman center Nerlens Noel, also raised his professsional upside in the minds of talent evaluators.
"Len made himself a lot of money Friday," ESPN Draft analyst Chad Ford said in an Insider column posted Monday. "He had career highs in points (23) and rebounds (12) against the No. 1 player on our Big Board (Noel) and established himself as a potential elite big man prospect in this year's draft."
Ford noted Len's "mixed bag" of a freshman season, which included moments of brilliance followed by games with "almost nothing on either end." That was then
"This season he has added strength and appears to be more confident," Ford wrote. "Equally important is the fact that, with gunner Terrell Stoglin gone, it appears as if Mark Turgeon is finally going to run the offense through Len. If he can keep this up all season, scouts predict he'll go very high in the 2013 NBA draft."
One NBA GM told Ford, "If Enes Kanter can go No. 3 and Jonas Valanciunas No. 5 in a much stronger draft, Len should be able to easily crack the top five if he's going to play like that all year. He's 7-foot-1, is athletic, rebounds, block shots and has offensive skills, and he's producing against legit NBA talent. Those guys don't come along very often."
No they don't, which is why Maryland fans are thrilled to have Len on campus - and hope he sticks around for a while.