Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
COLLEGE PARK--There has always been something about Maryland basketball that intrigues Dez Wells.
It’s a desire to know more, to know how and why things around him are the way they are and not simply that he is part of the latest Maryland Terrapins team, existing in a vacuum as if everything before it had not build up to this point.
He wants nothing you can find in an everyday media guide.
Wells, instead, asks questions. He asks legendary Maryland coach Lefty Driesell about Len Bias, he says, wondering if everything he had heard was true about the 6-8 physical anomaly who used to roam this same campus.
“I didn’t really get a chance to witness that, so I ask him so many questions about that,” Well said on Friday night at Cole Field House. “I care about legacy and this place is a special place to be.”
He’ll rattle off a laundry list of former players and coaches that he and the rest of his teammates keep in contact with, including Driesell, Walt Williams, Juan Dixon, Byron Mouton, and Tony Massenburg.
“When I came here, I thought about the guys like Juan Dixon, like I was in awe when I first seen him come out at practice, you know?” Wells said.
“It was a great experience and you should really care about how you leave a place behind. Things like that are really important to me and I care about the legacy because I’m a part of that now.”
Not only is Wells a part of it, but he could be the biggest part of it as Maryland prepares to begin its final season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This team will be historic if for no other reason than that it is the final ACC team in the program’s history, which could either be a footnote to a successful season or the only major quality about this bunch.
And Wells is at the center of it all.
When he was introduced at Maryland’s “Midnight Madness” festivities on Friday, he ran out to center court, leaned down, and kissed the mid-court line before his teammates crowded around him and each took a turn shaking his hand.
“Well, I didn’t lick it,” Wells said jokingly when asked after the festitivities how the court at Cole tasted. “But it was great. It was great. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to be on that court again.”
After the handshakes, he proceeded to run down to the far end of the court, prepare a lob for himself, and throw down a vicious 360-degree dunk with the roar of the crowd showering over him.
Wells is the closest player Maryland has to a star and a centerpiece in this final ACC season. He doesn’t stand out necessarily, at least not in the same way that 7-1 center Alex Len did a season ago, but it comes down to numbers.
Wells averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, but it is the glimmers and the glimpses that he showed last season that leave the door open for an All-ACC type of outing in 2013-14.
It is games like March 2 against Wake Forest when he dropped 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting in a victory. Or it was again against Wake Forest, this time in the ACC tournament, when he had 21 points on 7-of-10 from the field in another win.
Or, of course, the crown jewel when he was all but automatic against Duke in an upset win in the ACC tournament, an 83-74 victory behind 30 points from Wells.
“I don’t know [how he has improved] as a player because we’re just getting started,” head coach Mark Turgeon said at the team’s media day. “But as a leader, it’s night and day.
“He’s really trying and he’s doing it in the right tone. Guys respect him. He’s done a nice job.”
The circumstances of Wells’ entrance into Maryland may have been less than conventional, and the weight of a lawsuit Wells has filed against Xavier is still being felt, but this is his team and Turgeon is not concerned.
“When I decided to recruit Dez, I was 100 percent behind Dez. I did a lot of homework,” Turgeon said. “With that said, talking to his lawyers, it’s not supposed to interfere with us at all. I don’t plan on it interfering with us at all all season.”
So there stands Wells, intrigued by the past but still building his future in College Park.
“I’ve always been like that,” he says of his fascination with the program’s history. “Wherever you go somewhere, what you leave behind should be important.”