Phoenix Suns center Alex Len would often stay up until the early hours in the Ukraine, watching his idol Tim Duncan in action.
Now, some four years later, the 22-year-old had the chance to work out with the San Antonio Spurs legend this off-season in a series of workouts.
Two years ago, Len progressed to being a No. 5 draft pick and entered a preseason game in awe of being matched up against Duncan.
This summer, the idol became a mentor. Len visited San Antonio for three days in August to work with Duncan, a 19th-year Spurs star — from the dark side for Suns fans — helping the bright future of the Suns’ 22-year-old center.
“He was super-cool about it,” Len said. “He was one of the nice players I’ve ever met in my life. He is one of the most humble superstars you’ll ever meet. He’s like Tyson (Chandler). He’s always happy to answer any question. He genuinely wants to help you.”
The chance to work on nuances with “The Big Fundamental” was set up by Suns senior adviser Lon Babby, who served as Duncan’s agent before becoming a Suns president in 2010. Len met Duncan, a 16-time All-Star, each day to work out and then join Spurs pickup games — an option for any NBA player when visiting an opponent town in the offseason.
“He helped me a lot too with my patience, catching the ball, where you look, what action, what guys you’re looking for in cuts, reading defense,” Len said.
Len, who is gearing up for the 2015-16 NBA season for the Suns, has also committed to the Ukraine national team for next summer as well, having opted to train with the Suns (and Duncan) this off-season instead of representing the nation at Eurobasket, where they were eliminated at the group stages in Riga.