Athleticism has taken top priority in College Park. Mark Turgeon has crafted a recruiting plan includes a showdown against Kentucky for elite twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and on Tuesday the Terrapins beat Oregon and Memphis to earn a commitment from explosive Dez Wells, a sophomore transfer from Xavier.
By deciding to pursue Wells, Turgeon did assume some risk. Wells is leaving Xavier after an ominous off-court incident. His departure from the Muskeeters became enveloped in controversy after the university jettisoned him in the aftermath of a sexual assault allegation, despite a grand jury’s refusal to indict Wells.
In a statement, Wells said, “That last couple of weeks have been the toughest time in my life for my family and I. I’ve learned that it is a major responsibility that comes with being a student athlete at all times.”
Xavier expelled him under the auspices of its student conduct code, but scant details are available. Perhaps the strangest twist to the allegation occurred when, after the grand jury announced its decision, the county prosecutor said publicly that Xavier should reconsider its decision to banish Wells.
Moving on, from a basketball perspective Wells will bring invaluable speed and power to the roster. He’s very strong and aggressive, in addition to being explosive, and his hard-nosed style should endear him quickly to Turgeon. He averaged 10 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman last season, starting in all 32 games he played and performing a key utility role for a talented, experienced squad that advanced to the Sweet 16.
Wells fits the category of power wing forward. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, his body type appears more suited for football than hoops. He maximizes what he possesses, utilizing a physical, almost combative, style to pummel defenders. During his high school days, my most frequent criticisms were that he lacked a left-hand dribble (his off hand0 and a consistent jump shot. As a freshman he actually converted a solid 38 percent on threes last season in relatively few (20-of-53) attempts, but he made just 68 percent of his free throws and had a poor 35-42 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The next question is whether Maryland will file an appeal for Wells to become eligible this season. Whether he were to win an appeal or sit out and resume his career in 2013-14 — and at present it appears more likely he’ll redshirt this year — he will be a sophomore whenever he does take the court.
Examining the roster, Wells provides Turgeon something he didn’t already have. Freshman wing Jake Layman is a fine talent, but he’s a taller (6-foot-8), finesse player who’s best launching perimeter jumpers and passing over the top of defenses.
Wells stands as a direct contrast, eschewing long bombs in favor of putting his head down and driving into traffic. He’s also a far more aggressive defender, though he can be foul-prone as well. Freshman guard Sam Cassell Jr. also could slide down to wing forward, and he’d be the best dribbler of the three. Between the three players, Turgeon will enjoy tremendous versatility at both ends of the court.