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Phoenix Suns center Alex Len’s offseason work includes being a positive role model

PHOENIX — From Phoenix to New York and back to Phoenix before heading north to Prescott, Alex Len has kept busy in the two months since the regular season ended.

The Phoenix Suns’ second-year center is quickly becoming one of the team’s go-to favorites for player appearances.

He was helping Phoenix Suns Charities present a $25,000 check to Southwest Human Development as part of the Charity Challenge in early May. Two weeks later, at the team’s request, he traveled to New York to represent the Suns at the NBA Draft Lottery. While that proved unsuccessful in terms of improving their No. 13 draft position, the Suns were big hits around town with Len signing one autograph after another, always with a smile on his face.

“I like doing it,” he said. “I feel like obligated. We get such a great support from our fans and from our community. I’m enjoying doing this stuff.”

A week removed from his 22nd birthday, Len signed autographs for 280 kids at the Suns’ annual youth basketball camp at Thunderbird High School.

“It’s fun,” he said of the interaction. “These guys look up to you, and I’m trying to be a positive role model for these kids.”

Growing up in the Ukraine, Len never had the chance to attend a basketball camp.

“I wish I had opportunities like this back home,” he said.

To be fair, Len gravitated towards basketball later than most as he spent his early childhood as a gymnast — because he liked Jackie Chan movies — and didn’t pick up the round, inflated ball until he became a teenager.

Len’s advice to the kids was simple.

“Work hard,” he said. “For me, I was always thinking like, try to work when you know nobody else is working, so like maybe come back at night and do some extra work.”

And that’s not just lip service.

The 7-foot-1 Len has been a regular attendee at US Airways Center, in the weight room and practice court, already working out and working on his game in preparation for the season ahead.

Last season, he averaged 6.3 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while playing 22.0 minutes in 69 games, including 44 starts.

Since the season ended, Len has made seven appearances on behalf of the Suns, the latest coming Sunday at the team’s overnight camp in Prescott.

“We get amazing support from the Suns community and just coming here and kind of giving back,” he said. “It’s also enjoyable. I always like doing stuff like that in the summer related to basketball. These are some opportunities that I didn’t have; learn from some of the NBA players at a young age. Definitely, it feels great.”