University of Maryland Coach Praises Alex Len

After selecting Maryland center Alex Len No. 5 overall in last Thursday's draft, Suns.com caught up with the big man's college coach Mark Turgeon to discuss what the young man from the Ukraine can bring to the franchise. Turgeon shares his unique perspective on the newest member of the Suns after coaching him for two years and helping him assimilate to life in America and the game states-side.

Suns.com: Did you enjoy the experience of coaching Alex in college?

I loved it because he’s a great kid. I hope it’s not a once and a lifetime deal for me. He is a special player. We had to take him from non-english speaking, 218 pounds to the No. 5 pick. He was very skilled, very long and a good player. It was fun to be part of the whole process.

- University of Maryland Head Basketball Coach Mark Turgeon

Suns.com: What did it feel like to see a young man you helped guide for two years walk across that stage and shake David Sterns hand?

It was a great feeling when they called his name. To be honest it was kind of a relief. He came here to be an NBA player. I felt like we did our job and prepared him to move forward in his life.

- Turgeon

Suns.com: How much did Alex's game evolve over his two years at Maryland?

You have to understand, he didn’t come until August. A lot of kids get the Summer before their freshman year. He didn’t get that. We didn’t get him until September. The NCAA didn’t allow him practice and he had to sit the first 10 games. He was so far behind by the time he started practicing with us that the first year was almost like a wasted year.”

When the season ended in March after his freshman year until it it ended after his sophomore year, I never had a player grow more than he did, add more weight than he did, or be more committed to being a pro than Alex. People in Phoenix and the organization are just going to love this kid because of how hard he works.

- Turgeon

Suns.com: How will those skills he developed translate to the NBA?

I think his game is built for the NBA. I don’t think his game was built for the college level. We had a very young team and our guard play and shooting was very spotty last year. It was very hard for us to open up the floor for Alex. When we finally figured it out and started to play better at the end of the year, Alex’s numbers went through the roof.

His game translates to the NBA. The spacing is better for him. He’s a very skilled basketball player. Not only a low post player but can also shoot jump shots. Basically I think he’ll shoot pick and pop threes at that level. He’s really a special talent.

- Turgeon

Suns.com: What did you learn most about Alex while coaching him?

What I’ve learned is he is a pro. He’s hungry. He wants to be great, so he’s going to work at it. He loves basketball. More importantly he’s a great kid.

- Turgeon

Suns.com: What can Suns fans expect from Alex?

They’re going to see a young man who gives everything he’s got. He hates losing. He’s just going to continue to grow. I just can’t imagine where he’s going to be when he’s 23 or 24. I think he’ll be a borderline all-star.

- Turgeon