ACC Basketball Tournament - Wake Forest v Maryland

Maryland’s Alex Len may be ready to breakout thanks to his english?

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Maryland’s seven-foot Ukranian Alex Len is a kid whose name you’ll probably see pop-up on some breakout players lists heading into the 2012-2013 season.

There are a number of reasons for that. First and foremost, Len has apparently put on 30 pounds of muscle while managing to keep his conditioning up, which was the most important part of his development. Calling him a twig last season would have been an insult to twigs worldwide. He’ll need that mass to handle the physicality in the paint of high-major college basketball.

He’s also had a year to adjust to the American basketball, which is an under-appreciated aspect of the adjustment that European players have to make when they come stateside. It’s not just the style of play, either; there are differences between FIBA rules and NCAA rules. All that comes before you factor in the fact that Len had to sit out the first ten games of the season due to eligibility issues involving his time with a club team back home. Hopping on a team as a freshman in a new country midway through the season is not an easy task.

Between that and the culture shock that comes with living in College Park, a short drive on the parking lot known as 495 away from our nation’s capital, and I think we can all understand that Len had to adjust to more than just basketball.

But more than anything, Len needed to learn how to effectively communicate.

“The first three months was the hardest because I didn’t know the language — I knew a little bit, but it wasn’t good enough to communicate with teammates,” Len told Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times. “I think after the first three months, I started adjusted to the culture, to people and food.”

Sometimes we take for granted just how difficult it is to assimilate into a different culture. Len uprooted his life and moved to a completely different continent to chase a dream of being a basketball player. Just because it’s something that he wanted to do doesn’t mean that it’s something that will be easy.

Imagine if the tables were turned? How long would it take you to feel comfortable if you moved to the Ukraine? How long would it take you to learn the language?

With a season under his belt and some help in the front court thanks to a couple of talented recruits, Len might just be ready for a big year for the Terps.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.