NEW YORK – It’s reached the point where I expect so little from major college athletic programs that I hardly raised an eyebrow when Alex Len told Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons he played through the stress fracture in his ankle last season and didn’t have an MRI done until after Maryland’s last game.
But Kudos to Nate Timmons of Denver Stiffs for not dropping the issue. Using that video and a USA Today article that confirms Len’s injury wasn’t diagnosed until after the season, Timmons raised the question of whether Maryland acted appropriately.
It’s an important discussion, especially given the claims by the NCAA that its duty is to protect its athletes. Maryland had economic incentive to exploit Len (even more than they already did). He was a top player, and he could help the Terrapins win games and generate fan support. Who cares whether he suffers long-term damage? He was gone after this year, anyway, and wouldn’t be their problem.
Of course, we hope Maryland would act more scrupulously than that, but there should be more safeguards in place – namely a system that gives less power to coaches and administrators and more power to players than current setup does. Players like Len should have greater control of their own medical treatment.
However, while the issue is legitimate and important, Len does not make a good poster child for it. He very clearly said he has no problem with how Maryland handled his injury.
“A stress fracture is hard to discover sometimes,” Len said. “Because we did x-rays when it started hurting, but the doctor didn’t see anything. Sometimes, you can’t see anything. It just shows up after two months.”
Len came stateside from Ukraine two years ago to decide on a school. But because it was already August, he had just two weeks and looked at only Maryland and Virginia Tech.
Obviously on little information, he picked Maryland, and obviously, it’s worked well.
Even his injury has provided at least one benefit. Len said an x-ray revealed his growth plate is still open and he might grown another inch.
The basketball wasn’t always pretty in College Park, but it proved useful for Len, who grew up – after his famed and short-lived gymnastics career ended – playing international-style basketball.
“Coach Turgeon did a tremendous job helping a lot,” Len said. “He kind of guided me, what I needed to do, because when I came from Europe, I wanted to play outside. He explained to me, on the block, that’s where I’m going to play throughout my career.”
It’s fantastic that Len appreciated his Maryland experience. It’s important these schools are held accountable, so the next athlete feels the same way.