Dez Wells has more than his share of responsibilities for the Maryland men’s basketball team. Emotional leader. Veteran influence. Leading scorer. Point guard. The last one is new, thrust upon the junior out of necessity because the Terrapins needed a point guard when Seth Allen broke his foot less than two weeks before Friday’s season opener against Connecticut.
“It’s a lot on his plate,” Coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday. “It’s a lot.”
Picking a more difficult first test for the new point guard might not have been possible. Wells struggled against the Huskies’ workhorse back court. He committed six turnovers made just three field goals, at times disappearing from the play-by-play because the positional shift turned him into a distributor.
“Not only we lost Seth, we lost about half of Dez moving him to point,” Turgeon said. “Dez was playing at a really high level at the 2 and the 3. I’ve got to figure out a way to get guys in their natural positions, where they’re comfortable and what’s best for the team. Dez is still going to play point guard, he’s going to play a lot of point guard, but I’ve also got to get him off the ball where he can really help us.”
Wednesday’s home opener against Abilene Christian will give Turgeon an opportunity he was not afforded against Connecticut. The Wildcats are transitioning to Division I and have lost two games by 19 and 28 points this season. So Turgeon will almost certainly be able to experiment with his point guards however he pleases. Without mentioning specifics, Turgeon predicted “small, subtle things” to help Wells, who on Tuesday was named to the Wooden Award preseason top 50, mostly for the success he enjoyed on the wing last season.
Turgeon could mean moving Wells off the ball against a lesser team. Or playing Roddy Peters more, letting the freshman build off his 18-minute debut in Brooklyn, when Turgeon said Peters was the only player to run Maryland’s high ball screen correctly. Junior Varun Ram could even see extended minutes at point guard, yet another option until Allen returns in January.
“I’m going to coach my team like I have since halftime of the Connecticut game, and that’s figuring out a way of what’s best for this team,” Turgeon said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing. Going forward I’ve got to figure out what’s best for this team until we get Seth back. Five months left in the season, we’ve got a lot of time to get better.”
Indeed, the adjustment period can continue without much resistance until Dec. 4, when the Terps visit Ohio State and arguably the nation’s best back-court defender in point guard Aaron Craft. Until then, they get Abilene Christian, Oregon State on Sunday, three games in a ho-hum Paradise Jam and finally Morgan State to close November.
The Terps have rallied behind their new floor general.
“Dez is doing a good job,” forward Evan Smotrycz said. “It’s obviously hard to switch from what he was doing to running the team. I think he’s doing a pretty good job. As the season goes, he’ll get better.
“I think Dez will pick and choose his spots. That’s a tough thing to do because he’s hardwired to score. He’s doing a good job. He’ll get us into our offense moving forward.”