Maryland basketball got some big news and a big reinforcement this morning, with Xavier transfer Dezmine Wells committing to the Terrapins over Oregon, Kentucky, and Memphis. And, like all huge news, it came down via Twitter, with Wells tweeting that that last few weeks had been "the toughest time in [his] life," before making the call to join Maryland's rapidly improving roster.
This was a bit of a foregone conclusion, with some journos calling it well in advance of the announcement. Wells clearly enjoyed his Maryland trip much more than any of the other visits he took, with a source close to him raving over the visit. There were already connections in place between Wells and Maryland's staff - Bino Ranson recruited him to Xavier originally before he took the Maryland assistant job - but credit still has to go to Mark Turgeon & Co. for being absolutely lethal once they get a recruit on campus.
This is a big deal for Maryland, as Wells was one of the best and most productive freshmen in the country last year. He put up 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year, including a 19-point game against Memphis and a double-double over Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. Standing at 6-5 and 220, built like a linebacker, Wells should become an instant contender to start on the wing for Maryland, with only his lack of practice with the team potentially holding him back from being a dead lock to start against Kentucky, assuming he's eligible - which, of course, is the real question here.
If you haven't been keeping up with the situation, Wells was expelled from Xavier on August 21 for a "serious violation" of the school's code of conduct, later discovered to be rape. Then, exactly one week later, a grand jury refused to charge Wells, with the prosecutor (of all people) claiming that there was minimal evidence against him and that the expulsion was "fundamentally unfair" and "seriously flawed."
Part of the reason this is all so skeptical is that Xavier is under a federal mandate to overhaul their handling of sexual assault claims, after the Department of Education investigated the university under suspicion of discriminating against those claims, a violation of Title IX - including allowing a male student to remain on campus after twice being found guilty of sexual assault. That the biggest name on campus is kicked out on minimal evidence days after that ruling came down is quite the coincidence. Xavier fans have taken to calling it "crass opportunism" and saying XU "offer[ed] Dez Wells as a sacrifice."
We can discuss whether XU acted in their own self-interest or gave an impartial and independent ruling, but I suspect the only people who truly know that were the ones who made the call. As it relates to Maryland, we know that Wells will likely apply for a waiver for the NCAA to be eligible immediately. That seems unlikely to NCAA experts, particularly as it would require admitting that Xavier - one of its member institutions - made a mistake in expelling Wells, but stranger things have certainly happened coming from that four-letter organization.
If Wells is eligible immediately, it's a giant boost to Maryland's hopes and probably makes them a likely tournament team. We've already waxed lyrical about him, but the most important thing he'd do is fill the biggest hole in Maryland's lineup: the swingman spot next to Nick Faust. Pe`Shon Howard will start at point guard, with James Padgett and Alex Len locked in for the frontcourt spots. That leaves Nick Faust and some combination of Logan Aronhalt, Sam Cassell Jr., Jake Layman, and Seth Allen available for that second wing spot. Those four options are all unproven at this level, and I have my doubts about any of them being real game-changers. Wells changes that scenario, giving Maryland one of the best wing duos in the country and a one-through-five that doesn't have a single weak link. By moving the other four out of the starting lineup, as well, it ensures that Maryland will have firepower coming off the bench to boot. Aside from experience, that team has no holes.
But that's probably unlikely. The more realistic scenario is that Wells will have to sit out a year, becoming eligible in 2013-14. That sounds bad and probably keeps Maryland as a bubble team this year, but in a long-term scenario sets up a quite appetizing next season. With Wells and Evan Smotrycz becoming eligible at the same time, plus Damonte Dodd and whoever else (Harrison twins and Roddy Peters, please) joining the fray, Maryland would have a stronger bunch of incoming reinforcements than any team in the country, bar none. If there's going to be a "Maryland's back" statement season, that's when it'll come.
More coming up. But to answer the question you'll all have: yes, there's still scholarship space for the twins.