Dez Wells decision brightens Terps' future

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
11:10
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Dezmine Wells is a big, fast, strong college basketball player -- a 6-foot-4 guard built like a prototypical linebacker, who plays the game like one, too. He was a top-50 recruit who only scratched the surface of his potential in his first season at Xavier, but averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds a game (along with a 108.1 offensive rating and 37 percent from beyond the arc) in a largely tumultuous year.

After a prosecutor and grand jury's forceful rebuttal of Xavier's decision to expel Wells, his services would have been warmly welcomed by any of the nation's best teams, including the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats, which hosted Wells last week.

Instead, Wells, as he announced via what appears to be the iPhone Notes app at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday morning, chose rebuilding Maryland:
"The last couple of weeks have been the toughest in my life for my family and I," Wells' announcement read. "I've learned that it is a major responsibility that comes with being a student-athlete at all times. I'm thankful God has blessed me with a second opportunity to continue my education. I would like to thank UK, UM, UMD and UO for their recruitment and interest in me as a student-athlete. After careful consideration with my family, I've decided to attend the University of Maryland."

Those school acronyms are a little confusing, but that's why we're here: Wells chose Maryland over Kentucky, Memphis and Oregon. The decision came after a little more than a week's worth of predictable and understandable recruiting efforts. As bonus talents go -- as players who drop in your lap and immediately improve your program's short-term outlook -- Wells is a keeper, a rare opportunity to land a proven college player with a ready body in the final week of August.

Xavier's strange decision made Wells the most desirable free agent in recent transfer history. Of course a solid collection of schools went after him. That was hardly a surprise.

What was surprising was Wells' decision. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon toppled two recruiting powerhouses -- Kentucky and Memphis -- and an Oregon program with some of the best facilities in the country (and oodles of playing time to boot). Wells won't pay immediate dividends (he'll almost certainly have to sit out the customary transfer year, barring any sort of precedent-setting hardship transfer waiver ruling by the NCAA).

But he sets the Terps up for a rather massive 2013-14 season. Turgeon is inserting two top-100 players into his lineup in 2012 -- top-10 center Shaquille Cleare and top-20 small forward Jake Layman. He's bringing back a batch of promising young players, including sophomores Nick Faust and Alex Len. And that's before Turgeon, who has massively expanded Maryland's recruiting footprint since taking the job last summer, truly shores up his 2013 class. (Could the Harrison twins be next?)

Taken as a whole, Wells' decision essentially gives Maryland the equivalent of a top-20 recruit -- if not better -- for the 2013-14 season. Combined with the rest of Turgeon's assets, and the players he can go out and get now, it now seems certain that by Year 3 the new Maryland head coach will be able to showcase serious progress toward the program's goal of returning to the national elite.

There was nothing textbook about Wells' arrival, but when a 6-foot-4 ready-made beast of a college baller lands in your lap, you don't question the fates. You just keep moving forward.

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