Calling his newest acquisition “the most athletic player on our team right now,” Maryland men’s basketball Coach Mark Turgeon had high praise for transfer Dez Wells’s on-court capabilities and his character.
Maryland officially announced Friday that Wells, who was expelled from Xavier last month amid sexual assault allegations that never held up in court, had signed a financial-aid agreement and will enroll in classes for the fall semester. He will have three years of eligibility with the Terrapins, but when that begins remains in flux.
Maryland will file a waiver with the NCAA that would allow Wells to skipping the two semesters of ineligibility mandated by NCAA transfer rules and play this season. Filing the waiver, Turgeon said, could take one to two weeks, and once that happens it typically takes the NCAA an additional three weeks to make a ruling.
“Could move quicker than that, but we’re just on preliminary talks with that right now,” Turgeon said during a Friday teleconference, calling this case “the first of its kind.”
“I’m always optimistic. We’ll put together a good case, and it’ll be out of my hands, and we’ll respect the decision whichever way it goes. I feel great about our administration that’s behind us that will help us put our appeal together.”
As part of the process, Maryland could ask Xavier for waiver approval, something Turgeon called a “key component” to allowing Wells to play this season. From the conversations he and his staff have had with Wells’s former school, Turgeon does not anticipate that being a roadblock.
“I don’t think they’re going to try to stop Dez from playing this year,” he said.
Choosing between Maryland, Memphis and Oregon, Wells announced his decision to become a Terp on Tuesday via Twitter. He was on campus Wednesday, and was in the stands at Byrd Stadium last Saturday during the football team’s 7-6 win over William & Mary. Wells has known wide receiver Nigel King and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield — who like Wells are natives of Raleigh, N.C. — since childhood, and basketball assistant coach Bino Ranson recruited Wells to play at Xavier.
Starting 32 games for the Musketeers last season, Wells averaged 9.8 points per game and was named the Atlantic-10 freshman of the year. The 6-foot-5 guard-forward shot 37.7 percent from three-point range and was a key component as Xavier reached the Sweet Sixteen.
“I think we’ve got a really good player, a player who can do multiple things, a young player who’s going to get better and better,” Turgeon said. “Defensively, plays at a really high level, rebounds at a very high level, probably will become the most athletic player on our team right away, and has some skill and feel for the game.”
As far as his character, Turgeon took no issue.
“I’ve found him to be always a determined basketball player, a high-character kid with great personality, very well-liked,” Turgeon said. “From all the homework I’ve done through Bino, through other coaches, through administrators, from all the people I’ve talked to, it’s been real positive about his character and what a great personality and a great teammate he was.
“So we talked to numerous people, not only myself and my staff, but our administration made a lot of phone calls too. Just been getting positive feedback about what a great kid he was. That helped in our decision to pursue him and recruit him.”
Wells will assume Maryland’s 13th and final scholarship spot after junior forward John Auslander was taken off scholarship. According to Turgeon, this will not impact the Terps’s ability to bring in future top talent. Baring no early NBA draft decisions or transfers, Maryland will have two open scholarships next season.
“If I was worried about it I wouldn’t have taken him,” Turgeon said. “The situation where you try to bring in pieces, and after last year where we had injuries and situations where we didn’t have enough depth, I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen gain. There’s no guarantee that Dez is going to play this year. You just try to acquire talent and then mix it all together. If I was concerned about that, I wouldn’t have signed him.”