First, let’s set the record straight. Dez Wells is not a point guard. He will not become a point guard, nor will he start at point guard for the Maryland men’s basketball team. But when the mood strikes, in certain situations and certain lineups that call for the sophomore swingman to act like a point guard, he’ll occasionally bring up the basketball and run sets, much like he did against Boston College.
Wells finished with a career-high eight assists against the Eagles, drawing double-teams as he barreled towards the hoop from midcourt. Unlike in previous games this season, when such aggressiveness ended in reckless offensive fouls and turnovers, Wells regularly stopped short of contact, jump-stopping then passing away, finding open shooters when the defense collapsed.
After the game, Turgeon chalked the move up to “figuring it out.” Nick Faust and Seth Allen were struggling, while Pe’Shon Howard simply wasn’t a threat off ball screens. Now, it seems Wells will become more of a regular option, rather than simple a last-ditch resort.
“I think he’s going to have the ball more. Is he going to start at point guard? No. Because that would just flat wear him out as the game goes on,” Coach Mark Turgeon said Thursday. “There will be certain situations, certain lineups, certain plays we call when he has the ball. If he starts to look tired, we’ll go in another direction. Probably more so in the small lineup, he’ll have the ball in his hands, to make plays and to have shooters around him, which opens things up and he sees the floor pretty well.”
Wells handled the ball a little more in the second half last Saturday against North Carolina in Turgeon’s quest to solve Maryland’s offensive woes. But he excelled in the role against Boston College on Tuesday night, including seven second-half assists and zero turnovers after halftime despite tying his season-low with five field-goal attempts.
“He did well,” Faust said. “The last game was the first game he ever did it. He did a good job, got guys shots and I feel he executed the plays the right way. I don’t think he’s really becoming a point guard. We just have a set play for him to do it. He did a great job, doing whatever he can to break the defense down.”
Wells’s scoring totals have actually alternated with surprising regularity. Since ACC play began, he averaged 17 points in games one, three and five, but just 4.7 in games two, four and six.
“You’ve got to be ready for any kinds of changes or adjustments that we make, whether it’s at halftime or the last two minutes of the game,” Wells said. “It’s an adjustment I got really accustomed to really fast, so it wasn’t that big of a change for me, but it was a difference. I just want to make plays for my team, make the right plays and have good decision-making.”
The last time Wells saw this much action as a ballhandler, he said, came at Hargrave Military Academy, when his coach trusted Wells above others during crunch time to run pick-and-rolls. Situations will likely dictate his role for the Terps moving forward, but at least he’s demonstrated the ability to run the offense and execute off set plays in that role.
To wit, Wells drew a triple-team midway through the second half, rifling a pass over the top to Jake Layman in the right corner for a wide-open three-pointer that gave Maryland a 48-43 lead.
“I can create my own shot, so just trying to create shots for other guys of penetration and making easy passes, just adjusting to how the defense is playing,” Wells said. “It’s not that big of a difference for me, not that big of an adjustment, but I guess Coach Turgeon wants me to make plays for other guys.”