He may be the first pick in tonight’s NBA draft, but whether he’s the first, fifth or 6th pick Alex Len will be cashing a big money check. Not bad for the 20 year old 7’1″ center from the Ukraine who’s game in College Park had more ups and downs than a wild week on Wall Street. If the Cleveland Cavs select the Terp with the first pick in the draft he’d be the third Maryland player to get that honor.
John Lucas who had a terrific NBA career was the first pick in the 1976 draft and Joe Smith, who did some great work for Gary Williams Terps, was the first player selected in the 1995 NBA draft. Maryland has had 17 players picked in the first round; six Terps were among the first five in the first round.
In addition to Lucas and Smith, Len Bias was the 2nd overall pick going to the Celtics in the 1986 draft; Steve Francis was the 2nd pick of the 1999 draft. Towson’s Gene Shue, who would later coach the Baltimore Bullets to the NBA championship series, was the 3rd pick of the 1954 draft and NBA all-star Buck Williams went to the Nets with the third pick of ’81 draft. Maryland’s Al Bunge (’60), Albert King (’81), Walt Williams (’92) and Chris Wilcox (’02) were also top 10 picks.
Those of us who’ve watched Alex Len have seen top of the draft talent when he faced teams like Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina, but we have also seen the big guy disappear in games against lesser opponents. Tonight it doesn’t matter what we think. Do the Cleveland Cavs think he’s best in class? The Phoenix Suns GM reportedly is a big fan of Maryland’s big man and they have the fifth pick.
Terps head coach Mark Turgeon is also a big fan of his big man and told him privately last December that it was time for the NBA. It’s a big night for Alex Len and it’s good night for Maryland basketball as another Terrapin hits the NBA lottery.