There was inherent risk when the Phoenix Suns drafted Maryland center Alex Len with the fifth pick in this year’s NBA Draft, but Len’s upside greatly outweighs any risk that his right ankle poses. There was a reason, after all, the Cleveland Cavaliers toyed with the idea of taking Len with the first overall pick. True 7-footers who have the skills Len possesses and move as well as he does don’t come around every year.
While he projects to be ready for the beginning of the 2013-14 NBA season, Phoenix announced last Friday that Len underwent successful surgery on his right ankle in what the organization has called a “precautionary measure.”
Lon Babby, the Suns President of Basketball Operations said:
…Our medical staff determined that it would be prudent to perform surgery on Alex Len’s right ankle at this time… As part of a routine evaluation, our medical team identified the very beginnings of a stress fracture in Alex’s right ankle even though Alex was entirely asymptomatic.
It isn’t often that teams knowingly select a player with such a high draft pick with a history of injuries. Look no further than Jared Sullinger who was projected to be a Top 10 in the 2011 NBA Draft, but fell to the Boston Celtics with the 21st pick after it was learned Sullinger had lingering back issues. The fact that Len was still a Top 5 pick speaks to his skill set and how special of a player he may be in the NBA. Expect the Sun to be extremely cautious with their top pick in not rushing him back.
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The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.
According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.
And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.
It was profitable, too.
Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.
Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.
Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.
That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.
Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.
Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.
The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.
Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.
This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.
Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.
The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.
With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.