- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The NCAA ruled Maryland freshman center Alex Len must sit out 10 games, but the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian was cleared to practice, the school said Wednesday.

Len, who signed with Maryland just before the start of fall semester classes, would be eligible to play Dec. 28 against Albany in accordance with the NCAA’s ruling based on its amateurism guidelines. He also would be able to participate in the entirety of the Terrapins’ conference schedule.

A team spokesman said in a text message Len is eligible to participate in Maryland’s exhibition game Friday against Northwood but that no decision has been made about whether he will play.

Still, it’s important for Len’s development that he will be able to practice. Players without NCAA clearance cannot practice for more than 45 days beyond the start of activity. Because Len participated in individual workouts after classes began, he could not practice after Oct. 14 until this NCAA ruling.

Getting Len cleared in some fashion is a significant development for the short-handed Terps, who will begin coach Mark Turgeon’s first season with only seven available scholarship players. Maryland lost guard Pe’Shon Howard to a broken foot last week; Howard is not expected back until January.

The 225-pound Len is something of a mystery. Teammates insist he will make a substantial difference for the depleted Terps, whose other three scholarship forwards have never started a Division I game.

Last month, Turgeon tried to temper any unrealistic expectations about the newcomer.

“I don’t want to put that pressure on him,” Turgeon said. “I do think down the road he has a chance to be pretty good. Whether he’s a game-changer right now, I don’t know. The game’s too fast, it’s too physical. But he has great timing and great skill. Big guys take longer. It’s a matter of time. The light bulb will come on at some point.”