This has been churning for awhile, actually, given that Dez Wells handled the ball a few times against N.C. State, then UNC and, most recently, against Boston College, looking more point guard-y than anyone else on Maryland's roster in the process. With that came the inevitable question: is Dez Maryland's next attempt to answer to the never-ending point guard question?
Dez Wells is not a point guard. He will not become a point guard, nor will he start at point guard for the Maryland men's basketball team. But when the mood strikes, in certain situations and certain lineups that call for the sophomore swingman to act like a point guard, he'll occasionally bring up the basketball and run sets, much like he did against Boston College.
"I think he's going to have the ball more. Is he going to start at point guard? No. Because that would just flat wear him out as the game goes on," Coach Mark Turgeon said Thursday. "There will be certain situations, certain lineups, certain plays we call when he has the ball. If he starts to look tired, we'll go in another direction. Probably more so in the small lineup, he'll have the ball in his hands, to make plays and to have shooters around him, which opens things up and he sees the floor pretty well."
Read through it all, and you'll see that everyone - Prewitt, Turgeon, Faust, Wells himself - says he's not about to play point guard, then says, why, yes, he'll occasionally play point guard.
It strikes me as a particularly semantic distinction - point guards run set plays, handle the ball, get the offense into sets, and make plays, which is exactly what they'll be calling on Wells to do. Yes, it'll be situational, but it sounds a lot like being a point guard to me.
And that's an interesting twist, probably an encouraging one. Wells is one of the few players on Maryland's roster who is technically sound, smart, and controlled, which are probably the three most important factors for a point guard. Faust is smart, but he can play out of control and has loose handles. Seth Allen is incredibly skilled with the ball, but isn't a point guard and tends to make some silly mistakes, usually from playing a little too fast. Pe`Shon Howard is all three, to some degree, but his physical limitations have exposed him in ACC play.
Wells, by comparison, can handle the ball well, even under pressure, has good vision, and - while he can force the issue at times - has the body control and smarts to play under control when he needs to, as well. The clinic he put on against BC, where he had eight assists to three turnovers, showed as much. Wells has the ability to get to the rim virtually at will, but the presence of mind to dish it off to the open man and the ability to finish. Fun fact: he actually has the best A:TO ratio on the team in ACC play, which indicates that letting him run the show is at least worth a try. And he's hit or miss enough on the wing that moving him on the ball isn't likely to throw him off his game too much.
But, as Turgeon emphasizes, it's not going to be a full-time thing. At least, not at the start - if it works, I wouldn't be surprised to see it become one. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, because, in all honesty, Nick Faust has done pretty okay at point guard in his three games there, not lighting the world on fire but not doing anything to make you think that a change should necessarily be coming immediately. I don't necessarily see Wells as the answer at point guard, or even an attempted answer at point guard, so much as a different look Maryland can throw at a defense to get points when they're in a drought, probably from a set play. And it's a clever bit of coaching from Turgeon, if that's what ends up happening.
That said, it's getting to be the time of year that Turgeon's going to have to settle things down sooner or later. Once you get midway through the ACC season, it's probably time to shut down the tinkering, stop chasing the next big answer, and start letting guys settle into their roles. We're probably not at that point yet, but it's coming pretty soon. Once you've juggled like this for eight or so games, you've seen most every rational combination, and what comes after that will probably be diminishing returns. I can't see too many other sensible change-ups past Wells at point - an idea we'd have thought well and truly crazy just a few weeks ago - so I'd assume, and hope, that this is one of the last great experiments of the year.
I am excited to see how it goes, though, especially given the trouble a soft team like Duke might have in containing Wells, physically at least. The thought of Wells handling the ball and sizing up 6-4 and 185 Rasheed Sulaimon? Or even 6-8 and 195 Amile Jefferson? Mouth-watering.