Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
COLLEGE PARK--Dez Wells stood before the media at Comcast Center Friday morning with what could be called a “new” title, though it’s one he’s not unfamiliar with.
The 6-5, 215-pound junior will be Maryland’s starter on Sunday in its exhibition against Catholic University, head coach Mark Turgeon said, following the injury to assumed starter Seth Allen.
Allen went down with a fractured foot in practice on Tuesday and will miss about 10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the injury on Thursday.
Despite the transition Maryland is now forced to make one week from its opener against Connecticut in Brooklyn, Wells and the Terrapins have a few things working in their favor.
Wells played point guard throughout high school and on the amateur circuit, he played point at times last season, and Turgeon had begun giving him more reps at the position this preseason even before Allen’s injury.
Oh and, as Wells puts it, he has a few “very influential” friends on speed dial who are accustomed to playing the position--professionally--and willing to give him advice.
“One in Washington?” a reporter asked.
“Los Angeles,” Wells responded with a smirk.
Perhaps coy about his network of influencers, Wells has been described as almost entirely the opposite since taking over point guard duties following Allen’s injury.
Forward Charles Mitchell described a moment in practice after Allen got hurt when Wells grabbed the ball and gathered the team together.
“He was the first one to say, ‘I’m y’all point guard,’” Mitchell recalls Wells saying. “‘This is me now. Follow me. I’m going to be y’all leader.’”
But Turgeon had been preparing for this. After Maryland’s “private” scrimmage this preseason against Villanova, he knew he needed a Plan B, or even Plan C.
The Wildcats swarmed defensively, frustrating freshman guard Roddy Peters when he had the ball in his hands and spurring Turgeon to start getting Wells more time at the lead guard spot.
“He’s really far along with that,” Turgeon said. “To be honest, we really simplified our offense. We put a lot in leading up to the week that Seth got hurt. Now we’re just trying to get better at what we do.
“It was really hard for me a couple weeks ago when we first moved Dez over and he was kind of rattled with it,” he continued. “Now he’s natural with it. He feels good about it.”
The benefit for Maryland is two-fold. With his size and upper-body strength, he can get to the basket and will be asked to score in certain situations, Turgeon said. In others, like when Maryland runs with a larger lineup, he can set the offense up and create for others.
With Wells as the starter for the time being, the backup, Peters, continues to get work with the second team. Throughout the preseason, the mantra has been the same from Turgeon.
Peters is explosive in transition, but not yet comfortable running an offense in the half-court. His hope is that continued work with the second team will help him settle in before the start of conference play.
“Roddy is a tough kid,” Turgeon said. “He wants to get thrown in the fire. He doesn’t want to be sitting on the bench.
“He’s going to play through mistakes, kind of like Nick [Faust] did as a freshman,” Turgeon said, citing depth concerns. “He’s going to have to play. He’s coming. He’s a good player.”
Maryland will face no shortage of quality point guards during the time Allen will miss. The opener alone features the Connecticut duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
But Wells isn’t worried.
“I think about basketball all day. I watch basketball all day,” Wells said. “That’s all basketball is is challenges. As a competitor, naturally, I love the challenge...I’m not scared.”
Maryland plays host to Catholic on Sunday at 1 p.m.