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.