Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said he saw a little of himself in Dez Wells when the sophomore first transferred from Xavier to Maryland. Wells was forthright in explaining to Anderson the circumstances under which he was expelled from his former college for a “serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct.” Anderson looked into Wells’s eyes and saw the look of a student struggling with a situation he longed to rise above.
“He’s a good kid, and he’s a kid,” Anderson said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “But you know, he showed some maturity. I was able to look into his eyes, and he talked to me about what happened, and I could feel his pain. I’ve been there before, and if someone hadn’t reached out and helped me in my life, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.”
Anchored by the same sentiment that caused him to back Coach Mark Turgeon in recruiting Wells’ transfer to Maryland, Anderson helped guide Wells through the NCAA’s appeal process, through which the Terps and their 6-foot-5 swingman applied for a waiver to grant him immediate eligibility, which was ultimately granted Wednesday morning. Anderson’s staff, notably Dan Trump, the senior associate athletics director for compliance, senior associate athletics director Lori Ebihara and director of basketball operations Dustin Clark played major roles too. Alongside Wells, Anderson implored the NCAA to consider Wells’ character.
“I can’t thank those people enough, what they did to make this successful situation,” Anderson said. “It was my staff who put everything together and did a tremendous job. My hat’s off to them. I’m just proud to be part of the team that made this happen.”
Wednesday marked the end of a grueling saga for Wells, his family and the Terrapins, who fought to gain eligibility ever since Wells announced on Twitter on Sept. 4 that he would transfer to Maryland. The NCAA denied his initial appeal Oct. 26.
“I think the NCAA was compelled to hear from him, and he spoke from his heart,” Anderson said. “I think that’s what they ruled on.
“The biggest thing that happened today, is [NCAA president] Mark Emmert said he was trying to change what’s going in the NCAA now, and we need to look at each and every athlete and how we do the things that are right for student-athletes. Today definitely demonstrated that. We’re looking at the whole person we’re dealing with, with these student-athletes. A lot of it isn’t dictated by something that’s written on a piece of paper, but taking into consideration the young people we’re working with and putting the circumstances into real life. Today’s verdict was a great example of that.”
Declining to provide specifics about the process due to the sensitivity of the subject, Anderson said he has been on both sides of the fence, winning and losing eligibility waiver appeals. But he knows that clarity will provide a healing process for Wells.
“Just seeing him out there, smiling, that’s the best thing for Terp nation,” Anderson said.
He received the news on a train to New York City, where Wells will debut during Maryland’s season opener Friday against Kentucky at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Once he learned of Wells’ eligibility, Anderson had to look away from his fellow passengers, anywhere but into the eyes of his neighbors. He didn’t want them to see a grown man cry.