From the first day Dez Wells stepped foot on the court for Maryland, he's taken on a leadership role. He's been the guy in the huddle that has rallied his teammates, always knowing what to say. He's helped spark offensive runs when his team has gone into a bit of a lull. So when Maryland took the court Friday evening against the Monmouth Hawks, their first without Wells, who suffered a wrist injury against Iowa State earlier in the week, his absence was felt immediately.
"We huddle up and Dez always takes control there," head coach Mark Turgeon said following the game. "For the first two or three huddles, nobody said anything because it's always been Dez."
Maryland is going to have to quickly learn how to adjust to life without Wells, who isn't expected to return until late December. In the meantime, no one is going to show Maryland any sympathy simply because one of their best players is sidelined with an injury.
"I'm sick for Dez Wells because he is one of the best players in the country and now he's down," Monmouth head coach King Rice said following his team's close defeat. "Those kids rallied tonight. Hopefully, we scared them enough to understand they have a lot of work to do as well, but that is a good Maryland team in that locker room."
Not only were the Terps adjusting to Dez Wells' absence, they were also dealing with the return of Evan Smotrycz, who was cleared to play for the first time this year after suffering a foot injury shortly before the season began.
"We definitely missed Dez but we know as a team we are much better than what we showed tonight offensively with spacing and knowing the plays," junior forward Jake Layman said following the game. "Evan (Smotrycz) coming back was an adjustment too. We haven't had him all year but it's been great to have him back."
Things won't get easier for Maryland over the coming weeks, either. After playing VMI at home Sunday, the Terps will welcome Virginia to College Park for the B1G-ACC Challenge. The Cavaliers, one of Maryland's former ACC rivals, are currently ranked in the top 10 in both major polls and are the 5th best team nationally according to Kenpom.
"It was a little bit different for us tonight and that's life," Turgeon said. "You just get through it and get some rest tonight and get up tomorrow and try to get a little bit better."
Hopefully Maryland will continue to get better. This year's team has already shown their ability to overcome adversity. Wells' injury is just another opportunity for them to rise up to a challenge that they'll once again hopefully overcome.