Maryland guard Dez Wells is one of many reasons for the team’s surprising success this season.
The senior is really hitting his stride at the right as he is playing his best basketball with Selection Sunday less than a week away. Due to his stellar play this season, Wells was named to the all-Big Ten First Team on Monday.
However, it’s been a long road for Wells to get to this point.
During the 2011-12 NCAA Tournament, Maryland fans probably didn’t have a ton of interest in the South Region, aside from hoping for Duke to lose. Well, Duke did lose to Lehigh in the Second Round in one of the most surprising upsets in March Madness history. However, the Mountain Hawks were upended by Xavier in the Third Round. Maryland fans most likely didn’t make much of it at the time, but they were watching a future Terrapin in action as Wells was a integral part of Xavier’s success that season.
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As a freshman with the Muskateers, the Raleigh native averaged 9.8 points-per-game and 4.9 rebounds-per-game. However, after just one season in Ohio and some legal issues, Wells found himself on the transfer market.
After taking visits to Kentucky, Memphis, and Oregon, Wells ended up in College Park where he has had success over the past three years.
Wells has improved every year he’s been at Maryland, but the 2014-15 season has been his most impressive campaign by far. The talented guard was only getting a few minutes more per game.
His Terp career started with him being deemed ineligible by the NCAA, but an appeal ended up granting the sophomore eligible to play just days before Maryland would open up the season against Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Wells had an expanded role upon coming to Maryland and turned in a solid sophomore campaign. He averaged 13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 3.0 apg for the Terps and shot a career-high 52.6 percent from the field. Wells was instrumental in a pair of late-season wins against Duke, which nearly vaulted Maryland into the NCAA Tournament. With Wells’ strong late season play and the huge year from center Alex Len, the Terps made it to the NIT semifinal game in which they fell to Iowa.
In his junior season, Wells was expected to carry Maryland as Len had decided to take his talents to the NBA.
During the 2013-14 season, Wells starred in a backcourt that featured fellow guards Seth Allen, Nick Faust, and Pe’Shon Howard. Wells did improve his scoring to 14.9 ppg, but saw his assist and rebound numbers dip a bit. Maryland was a team that had several guys playing out of position and the lack of quality bigs didn’t make it any easier on a guy like Wells. The Terps also lacked a true facilitator as Allen was better off the ball and Howard had his fair share of struggles when running the point.
That brings us to this season.
Wells was one of the few veterans on a very young team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten. However, Maryland has been one of the biggest surprise teams in the entire nation as they are currently ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and could move up with a win against Nebraska on Sunday to close out the season.
Wells had a strong start to the season, but was delivered a crushing blow when he suffered a broken wrist in December. The senior guard was forced to miss seven games, but Maryland didn’t seem to miss a beat as they only lost to Virginia during that stretch.
The former Hargrave Military Academy standout came back with a bang as he scored double figures in all but three games following his return.
In the last 11 games, Wells is averaging 17.7 ppg and 5.8 rpg, which are both shades above his season average.
Wells’ stellar play began in the first game of this tremendous stretch when Maryland really needed him to make a big play. With the Terps trailing by a point with just seconds remaining against Northwestern, Wells put back a Melo Trimble miss with 1.4 seconds left to help his team escape with a last-second win against a struggling Wildcat team.
Then Maryland suffered road losses to Ohio State and Iowa, which had many questioning the team’s talent.
However, something seemed to click for the Wells and the Terps when they took the floor against Indiana for the second time. Despite a closely-contested game that couldn’t seen the Hoosiers win at the buzzer, Wells played a great game that ended with a total of 18 points. The Raleigh native scored nine of those points in the second half when Maryland found themselves in an absolute dogfight with Indiana.
As impressive as some of those performances were during that 10-game stretch, the game that really showed the type of player that Wells is was the Wisconsin game. Despite Maryland already being a shoe-in to make the NCAA Tournament, the Terps were in search of a top-tier statement win. Without Wells earlier in the season, Maryland fell to a defensively-sound Virginia team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Wells definitely put his stamp on the Wisconsin game as he scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds in an upset win for Maryland. The senior guard scored 12 of his 26 points in the second half, including a stretch in which he netted six consecutive points for the Terps. One of the prime examples in this game of Wells taking over was his baseline dunk with 4:05 remaining off a screen from forward Evan Smotrycz.
Wells also displayed his terrific basketball IQ in this game. The senior pushed the tempo quite a bit, but was smart about it. When the moment was right, he would penetrate into the lane and pass the ball when he needed to. On other ocassions, he would attack the rim when the situation presented itself. If you’re as effective a shooter as Wells is, it makes knifing your way into the lane that much easier. If he has to settle for a jumper, the Raleigh native is more than capable of hitting it.
As the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments approach, Wells is playing some of the best basketball of his career. His worth to Maryland is huge due to his ability to shoot, pass, and rebound the ball at alarming rates. If this type of play continues, this may be a postseason to remember for Terp fans.