Dez Wells’s playing status for the 2012-13 season remains in limbo. The Xavier transfer and the Terrapins are still waiting to the NCAA to rule on Maryland’s request to waive the usual rules regarding transfers, which would grant the dynamic swingman immediate eligibility instead of making him wait until the 2013-14 season to take the court for the Terrapins.
Not that it matters. College Park finally feels like home.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since he announced on Sept. 4 via Twitter that he would attend Maryland, Wells seemed at peace, unaffected by his expulsion from Xavier and the subsequent decision-making process that ended with him choosing the Terrapins. Joining Coach Mark Turgeon’s program brought comfort and was an easy choice to make. Assistant coach Bino Ranson recruited him to Xavier two years ago. Wells has known Nick Faust for years through the AAU circuit. Nigel King, a wide receiver on the Maryland football team, is his best friend.
“When you go through something like I did, you always want to be around those who have your best interest at heart,” Wells said. “It made it a lot easier on me. I didn’t have worry about finding people up here who I could trust, because I already had them up here. It just made everything so much easier to transition on the court.”
Trust. That word came up plenty with Wells. The sexual assault allegations that were deemed to be a serious violation of the Xavier Code of Student Conduct were ruled unworthy of prosecution in court. Kentucky, Memphis and Oregon were the other finalists out of the 60 or 70 schools that called (by Turgeon’s estimation). But with the friendships Wells already had established in College Park, all signs pointed to Maryland.
Wells has spent plenty of time in Turgeon’s office, discussing the past and the future, gradually adjusting to life on a new campus.
“He’s a lot better today than he was,” Turgeon said. “I think he said it best. He ended up in a situation he’s really comfortable with. He really likes his teammates, knows the coaching staff. I think he feels comfortable here. Each day he feels a little more comfortable.”
The NCAA decision could come very soon — “There’s still some more work to do on that,” Turgeon said — but even if Wells never suits up for the Terps this season, he’s become a valuable voice of reason and experience on a roster bursting with young talent.
“It’s not that tough,” Wells said. “You just wait to see what’s going to happen. The anticipation does build up, you get anxious a little bit, but you just have to wait and see what happens.”
Though just a sophomore, Wells has NCAA tournament experience, a rarity among fellow Terrapins, including a 14-point, 11-rebound effort against Notre Dame in the second round on March 17.
“I’ve been on teams with great players, so I know how you have to respond in games, to every possession,” Wells said. “The intensity and the attention to detail was the most important things I learned. I can be an echo to Coach Turgeon.”
But when asked to break down his own game, Wells, whose highlight-reel dunks became commonplace as he became the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year, finally stumbled.
“I think I can be a leader,” he said. “Physically, that’s for you all to break down. I don’t like to talk about myself too much.”