Dec 12, 2013; Chestnut Hill, MA, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon talks with guard/forward Dez Wells (32) during the second half against the Boston College Eagles at Silvio O. Conte Forum. Maryland Terrapins won 88-80. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Dez Wells has had an excellent senior season despite the ups and downs the Terps have experienced along the way. After a few decent non-conference games, Wells went out with a broken wrist and missed about a month, encompassing seven games in total. The Terps only loss in that period was against current number two team in the country and former ACC rival Virginia, who are known for their defensive prowess under head coach Tony Bennett. Granted, the second-best team they played in that stretch without Wells was Oklahoma State, who are currently considered a number 9 seed at large bid from the Big 12. Outside of those two teams the competition was relatively tampered for a team with Maryland’s talent level.
I thought that Wells’ absence would help the team by giving Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens, and Dion Wiley bonus minutes and shot attempts, and help them learn to play as a compatible backcourt. When Dez got back he would be like a nitrous boost to push them over the top and into the nation’s elite. However, when Wells returned, the Terrapins basketball team wasn’t winning with the same convincing displays seen earlier in the year and the losses became more frequent and sometimes very ugly.
But in the end I think that the injury helped Dez Wells. It made him realize that he couldn’t be Melo’s right hand man, and he couldn’t try and choose spots to turn his intensity on and off, he had to be the Senior leader and standout player at all times. In the end, Mark Turgeon’s crew righted the ship and turned the season into a three seed or better resume for the NCAA tournament. This is due in large part to Dez Wells stepping up as of late and turning it on at the perfect time, heading face first into tournament season.
The Terps Go as far as Dez can Carry Them
With dynamic freshman point guard Melo Trimble, the Terrapins have one of not only the best first-year players in the country, but one of the best overall at that position as well. He is a dynamic scorer and passer, and at his size offers a lot on the defensive end of the floor. He has without a doubt been the most consistent player on the team, and he has also been the player performing at the highest level. However, Melo Trimble is not what will take the 2015 Terps to the height of the tournament season, and while the Terps absolutely aren’t in the same cosmos without Melo, Dez Wells is the reason the team is playing at such a high level right now.
Since the team’s horrendous loss on the road against Iowa last month, Maryland has won six games in a row. In that span they beat then number five Wisconsin at home in prime time, on national TV with shiny uniforms to boot. In that game Dez Wells had a game-high 26 points, and a team-high seven rebounds and four assists. He showed up in the biggest game of his life and picked up the slack for players like Jake Layman who only had six points, or Evan Smotrycz and Richaud Pack who both played big minutes and only had two points and seven rebounds combined.
In fact, throughout this stretch, Dez has taken it upon himself to take over and dominate games. He has never failed to score in double digits with his only two games under 18 being 13 and 14 point outings. Has had four games with 6 or more rebounds, including his 10 contributing to a double-double Tuesday against Rutgers. He has also averaged a steal per game in the span.
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The Terps are currently set up to have a two-round bye in the Big Ten tournament, and will sit out for the “first round” of 64 in the National tournament. Currently if the tournament goes according to Joe Lunardi’s seeding, the Terps will face the long and talented, 11-time defending conference champion Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight. Even though that is a long way out, if Dez Wells continues to play at the level he is playing at now, the Terrapins have a good chance at getting there. In fact if they are going to get there, Dez Wells will have to continue his current level of play for another month, and on top of maintaining it he may have to go to an even higher level.
Not only will he have to maintain his 18.8 point, 5.8 rebound, two assist, one steal a game line through the upcoming postseason schedule, he may have to bump his production up to 21 or 22 points, 7 rebounds, and somewhere around 3-5 assists per game. In order for the Terps to get to the Elite Eight, he will have to be one of the more aggressive (and at the same time efficient) players in the country.
Last year the Iowa State cyclones rode senior guard Deandre Kane all the way to the Elite Eight even through the absence of Georges Niang, one of the best offensive players in the country. Kane took it upon himself to lead and thrive throughout the tournament, their loss coming to eventual National Champion UConn and their Senior point guard Shabazz Napier. In order for the Terps to make a good run, Dez Wells will have to be on both of their levels of play, a daunting task no doubt.
This Run Could Help Boost Dez Wells Draft Stock
After transferring in from Xavier I don’t know if anyone could have predicted, not even Mark Turgeon, how much Dez would eventually mean to the program. He has stuck with the team through the transfers of the offseason and the struggles of not reaching an NCAA tournament. Dez Wells’ impact in College Park could last long after this season with his NBA career, the prospects of which could be bolstered by a deep NCAA tournament run.
Last year before the tournament Shabazz Napier was a second-round prospect at best. Even though he was so dominant in college his size, and lack of athleticism had him on the outside looking in. Then he exploded in the NCAA tournament and got a co-sign on twitter from Lebron James that lead him to being a first-round selection of he Miami heat.
Dez Wells has an excellent NBA frame at 6’5, 215 pounds with elite athleticism. He has an array of offensive tools and an already top-notch defensive skill-set. Wells has been a great teammate and outside of the later-to-be-revealed false allegations of sexual assault at Xavier, has not been a problem off the court. He has the adoration of his coaching staff and teammates. All he needs is a stage on which to put himself on display. All the more convincing that he will really put on a show in the postseason.
In the NBA, Dez Wells has the chance to be a role player with a long tenure in the league. He is a hard enough worker to improve on his already solid game and add a lot to an NBA roster. He currently projects as a second round pick as a shooting guard. However due to the need for size and scoring at the point guard position in the NBA, if Dez Wells has a good enough tournament and displays the skill set to develop into a facilitator, he could boost his stock to the bottom of the first round.
If that happens, Dez Wells could project as a very, very poor man’s Deron Williams. They are similar in size and strength, and for what he lacks in three-point shooting consistency currently, he makes up in athleticism and defensive ability. If Dez were to make a successful leap to the NBA, it would mean a lot for the Terps in terms of selling development to recruits, as he would be the first successful NBA guard draft pick since Grieves Vasquez in 2010. He would also continue Mark Turgeon’s precedence in development as his second draft pick following Alex Len, who has been a rising player for the Phoenix Suns.
Hopefully the Terps have a good postseason run and we don’t all end up heartbroken like in 2010.
I am still punching holes in may wall.