Maryland’s Addition of Dez Wells Points to a Bright Terrapin FuturePosted by Chris Johnson on September 5th, 2012
Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The short-term outlook for Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins was already bright. On Tuesday, though, the program received an added boost thanks to a timely pickup on the free agent transfer market. Dezmine Wells, who was expelled from Xavier on controversial sexual allegations charges that were later challenged and struck down by an Ohio grand jury, prompted an open recruiting war between some of the nation’s top programs for his services. After more than a week of visits and deliberations, Wells chose Maryland over Memphis, Oregon and Kentucky. He made the decision official on his Twitter account with a repentant and humbling message to his four suitors. And with that conclusion, Wells turned down the defending national champion and the NBA talent-grooming coach that inhabits its sidelines, a Memphis program poised to strengthen its brand name and recruiting footprint with an impending move into a revamped Big East, and the Nike-backed Oregon Ducks, who offer all the amenities and perks any elite college hoops star could ever hope to enjoy at his program of choice.
The decision marks yet another indication of positive momentum toward Turgeon’s goal of re-establishing Maryland as the perennial ACC and national title threat it once was. The putative benefits are obvious: Wells is a 6’ 5’’, 215-pound freight train with immense talent and upside, a dynamic scorer and playmaker adept at creating his own shot off the dribble, and one of last season’s truly impressive freshman talents whose steady scoring (9.8 PPG) and rebounding (4.9 RPG) production went somewhat unnoticed amid the tumult of XU’s post-brawl struggles. The Terrapins will likely have to wait until the 2013-14 season to reap the on-court rewards of their newest addition; Wells is expected to apply for a hardship waiver that would allow him to play next season, but CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman doubts the NCAA will grant his request. But with Wells in tow, the Terrapins are positioned well to challenge the elite ranks of the ACC down the line. Maryland boasts a young but promising rotation featuring rising talents like guards Nick Faust and center Alex Len – to say nothing of sure-handed junior point guard Pe’shon Howard – and welcomes two top-100 recruits (small forward Jake Layman and center Shaquille Cleare) into the mix. The young core should improve with another years’ development and maturation, just in time for Wells and Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz (not to mention the legitimate prospect of adding super twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison) to enter the fold in 2013. That’s a deep and talented group, one with more than enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with perennial league contenders UNC, Duke and newbies Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
But this is about more than adding a really good player teeming with all-ACC potential. It’s about making a progressive step for Turgeon and his ongoing rebuild, about outbidding two relentless recruiters (Calipari, Pastner), and outlasting an upstart program with some of the best facilities in the country. Wells’ decision was just as important for Maryland’s competitive prognosis as it was its reputation. On the surface, Wells’ choice comes off as somewhat puzzling. After all, it’s not often Calipari sees a coveted prospect reject his advances, particularly after an overnight visit to Lexington. But for those who know Wells on a more personal level, the move wasn’t at all unexpected. Goodman is one of those people, and he offered a cogent personality portrait of the Raleigh native.
Dez Wells isn’t your ordinary college basketball player. This isn’t about his toughness or what he just went through at Xavier, either. This is a kid that doesn’t yearn for attention, was never blown away by the name on the front of the jersey. Wells is a throwback of sorts. That’s why he chose Xavier coming out of high school instead of an ACC program. That’s why he didn’t pull the trigger and commit to Kentucky yesterday while on his visit to Lexington.
That description combined with the remorseful words of appreciation accompanying Wells’ decision tweet gives the impression that Maryland is adding not only an excellent basketball player but an estimable personality who has come to grips with his troubled past. He spurned the brighter lights of the ACC two years ago. In his second recruitment he’s making a similar decision – ironically enough, this time Wells rejected more enticing programs and joined the ACC – by choosing the middling-of-late Terrapins. Maryland isn’t a recruiting consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination – it holds deep cultural ties in a basketball-crazed state and touts an illustrious history of national success. But it’s not the NBA breeding grounds of Kentucky or Memphis, nor is it the modernized basketball fortress in Eugene. The point is, Wells made the decision that was less anticipated yet more fitting. It seems Turgeon has added a highly desirable player, both on and off the court, one fully committed to his rebuilding project in College Park.