Ukrainian native Alex Len's dual focus

Ukrainian native Alex Len's dual focus
March 26, 2014, 11:45 pm
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(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Tensions over Crimea between Russia and Ukraine are not just something on the news for former University of Maryland star Alex Len.

The 7-foot-1 center spent this past season in Phoenix with the NBA's Suns after two years in College Park, but Ukraine remains home.

"Last two months have been crazy over there," Len said at the Verizon Center on Wednesday shortly before focusing his attentions toward the night's matchup versus the Washington Wizards.

In between learning the NBA ropes as a rookie and working his way back from injuries to both feet, Len keeps close watch on the situation in Eastern Europe.

Not that the 20-year-old has a full grasp on the dramatic conflict no matter the number of news sources he checks.

"I don't really know. I watch Russian news, American news and Ukrainian news. Everybody says different things," Len said. "I'm not a politician. I just hope nobody gets hurt. Praying for peace, you know."

He knew enough to bring his grandparents overseas to Phoenix. Other relatives remain behind in what is now Russian-occupied Crimea.

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"It's crazy. I used to go them every summer. Now I need a Visa to go see my family," Len noted.

The fifth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft caught up with his University of Maryland family over the past 24 hours. Len was on campus Tuesday as the women's basketball team downed the Texas Longhorns to advance further in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's great," Len said of being back in the area and seeing friends.

The reunion tour was expected to continue following Wednesday's game with his college coach, Mark Turgeon, in attendance.

Len, who underwent surgery on both ankles last year, has only played in 38 games for the 43-29 Suns, averaging two points and just under nine minutes. He played four scoreless minutes in Phoenix's 99-93 win over the Washington Wizards.

Despite the slow start to his career, Len remains upbeat, adding he understands patience is paramount. He also stated he doesn't dwell on whether another season with the Terps would have benefited his game. The big man's basketball attention is only about the Suns, who are tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final postseason slot in the Western Conference.

"Right now I'm just focused on right now," Len said. "We've got to make the playoffs. Every game is important."

So is what's taking place in Len's homeland. He expected to return overseas following the season, but now says he'll likely train in the states this off-season. No matter where Len travels with the Suns or works on his professional craft this summer, thoughts of Ukraine will be right there as well.

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