Dezmine Wells shouldn’t be stepping foot in the Comcast Center this year. He shouldn’t be fitted for team shoes, and his #32 shouldn’t be making any appearances in a 2012 Terps box score. Where Wells should be is at Xavier, building on a spectacular freshman season. After losing their top 3 scorers, the Musketeers could definitely use him. And he should be in the process of forgetting about the potentially life-altering charge brought against him this summer. But, due to plenty of mistakes that were made in Wells’ case, he fell into Mark Turgeon’s lap. Unfortunately, the governing body of college sports seems intent on compounding those mistakes.
Considering the focus of this site is Maryland sports teams, I’m sure plenty of readers are Terps fans, and thus aware of Wells’ situation. But his story shouldn’t be constrained to Maryland supporters. The deal that Wells is getting from the NCAA right now isn’t raw; it’s still bleeding. Needless to say, if Wells was trying to transfer to the already stacked NC State, or even Duke, I would still be campaigning to get him on the floor.
Wells was expelled from Xavier University on August 21. The University Conduct Board that came to the decision claimed sexual assault, and Wells’ case was then brought before a grand jury. After hearing the same evidence that the conduct board did, the prosecutor in the case not only cleared Wells of all charges, he went to bat for Wells. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters described Dez Wells’ expulsion as “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed”, even going as far as suggesting Xavier seriously reconsider their decision of expulsion.
They didn’t, claiming that their standard for guilt at the university (preponderance of evidence) was less stringent than the standards set forth in criminal courts (beyond a reasonable doubt). Xavier went on to make the semi-ridiculous claim that their conduct board “heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the grand jury.” Deters countered that if the case was brought before him, he “would never take anything like [it] to court. It just wouldn’t happen.” And so it was that Dez Wells was found innocent, and simultaneously kicked out of the only school he visited as a high school senior.
Proving that he’s a much better person than me, Wells buttoned his lips and said nothing but good things on his way out of Ohio, before revisiting the process of choosing a school. His services were highly sought after by some good programs (Memphis and Oregon), and he even got the attention of college basketball’s juggernaut (Kentucky), before announcing his decision to play for the Terps. In case you didn’t know, this was a big deal. Not only did Maryland outmaneuver Kentucky on the recruiting trail, but Wells represented a caliber of recruit that the Terps haven’t seen since Mike Jones.
He was the gem of the 2011 Xavier recruiting class for good reason. A consensus four-star recruit, his calling cards were his intensity and college-ready build. And oh yeah, he could do stuff like this. He did stuff like that a lot. Wells progressed even faster than his four-star rating suggested, and he became a big part of Xavier’s success last year. As the year wore on, he got larger chunks of minutes (he averaged 26.1 PG for the year), and even shined under the intense spotlight of March (14 point,11 rebounds vs Notre Dame in the first round). In 2012-2013, Wells was primed to be the poster boy for the one of the most successful mid-major basketball programs in the country. Putting all the pieces together (tenacious D, above average outside shooting, hops like a full-bodied IPA), he looks a lot like a mix of Dahntay Jones and Latrell Sprewell.
Unfortunately, the NCAA seems determined to prevent the Wells concoction from being served in College Park this season. Last week, they declined Maryland’s request for a hardship waiver, meaning Wells would need to sit out the year as a transfer before taking the court again. I can’t get into what requirements need to be met in order to receive a hardship waiver, because there are no hard and fast rules. The NCAA takes every case individually, which makes this decision even more confusing. Unless – as Xavier said in the statement they released after the Wells expulsion – there is more evidence “that may or may not have been heard by the grand jury” (incredibly hard to believe) that the NCAA is using in their judgment, there’s not one single reason Wells shouldn’t be able to ball this year.
He’s not even a transfer student, because he never chose to transfer. Xavier kicked him out under questionable pretenses (even more questionable considering Xavier came to an agreement with federal investigators to be more vigilant of sexual offenders just three weeks before they kicked out Wells. The university had mishandled a number of sexual assault cases in recent years. Deters said it best: “Any time you get federal people involved in this, you should expect a disaster.”) Taking this year away from Wells after he’s done nothing wrong is not only immoral, it would prevent Dez from proving himself worthy of an NBA draft pick (and all the money that comes with it) for a whole year.
But Wells isn’t bothering anyone. He didn’t give any juicy, vitriolic quotes at Maryland media day, and he hasn’t fired off any incendiary tweets. Right now, he’s just an extremely talented scrimmage player who is hoping against hope that for the first time in a while, the adults in charge can do their jobs half as well as he does his.
Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus, co-host of the BSR Podcast and contributor at BaltimoreSportsReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patguth321.