Xavier guard Dezmine Wells has typically operated under the adage that experience is the best teacher, but on Dec. 10, Wells learned, more than ever, that it doesn’t have to be.
Wells was one of four Musketeers who were suspended for their roles in a brawl with Cincinnati that ended the Bearcats' blowout loss. Cincinnati also suspended four players.
“I was really upset with myself because I got out of character,” said Wells, who will return from a four-game suspension Saturday when the Musketeers host Gonzaga at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2. “I definitely wish it never happened. I hated that we acted like that.”
After the incident, one of Wells’ first calls was to Kendrick Williams, who coached Wells in AAU and at Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.).
Williams, now the coach at Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmoor, N.C.), was the mentor who helped Wells kick his “bad attitude” when he was 11 by implementing what Williams now calls the “Dez Rule.”
“I’ll never forget it,” Wells said. “I was young and I had a temper at practice and I was mouthing off and I didn’t want to run sprints at the end, so Coach K had one of my teammates buy me a Gatorade and another teammate put a chair at midcourt, and I watched the team run for hours. That was the day I changed my attitude for the better.”
Williams, who still uses the “Dez Rule” today, said he wanted to show Wells how his actions can ultimately affect his teammates, a lesson that was reinforced after the Dec. 10 melee. Xavier has gone 1-3 over its past four games.
“He’s a great young man,” Williams said of Wells. “We talked for an hour and a half after the Cincinnati game, and I really got on him. I don’t let him get away with anything. He understood and admitted where he was wrong in the end, and he genuinely learned a lesson. That’s what it’s all about.”
Added Wells: “It hurt me because I knew Coach K, who’s like my father figure, was disappointed, plus I knew I’d hurt my mom and family. I was disappointed in myself too, but I learned a lot. I am planning to talk to some kids at the Boys & Girls Club about the importance of self-control. I know some good can come from the whole thing.”
Wells came up with five things to remember during the inevitable heated situations on the court.
Cooler heads prevail.
“You’ve all heard this one before, but it’s so true. You’ve got to keep your cool in every situation, not just on the court but in life. You’re accountable for everything that you do.
"No matter what happens out there you’ve got to keep your cool and good things will happen.”
Laugh it off.
“In every game, no matter who you’re playing, there will be a time when someone says something slick to you or bumps you a little too hard, and the best thing you can do when that happens is to laugh it off.
"Nothing good can come from you retaliating, and any player will tell you that the retaliator is the one who usually gets caught. Just laugh it off and keep it moving.”
It’s not worth it.
“I’ve been sitting out for four games, and that alone makes it not worth it. There’s always a consequence for your actions and in hindsight it’s never worth it.
"You always regret it when you mess up, so you’ve got to use your head.”
Don’t mistake intensity for anger.
“This is my favorite one. A lot of guys think that being intense is all about talking smack and being all up in the opposing team’s face, but it’s not. It’s more about playing hard and communicating with your teammates and respecting the game.
"You’ve got to remember that it’s just intensity when things get testy on the court. You aren’t really mad at the other guy; you’re both just being intense. It’s something you should actually respect, not get mad at. Got to learn to identify the different emotions.”
“There are times when a guy will take it too far, whether he steps to you or pushes you or whatever, and you have a decision to make. Always choose to turn around and walk away. Take it from me.
"I would absolutely handle my situation different if I could do it over. Win or lose, you walk away and stay respectable. It sounds cliché but it’s true, the bigger man always walks away.”