Three for 11 shooting. Nine points. Eight turnovers. Double-digit loss. That’s how Dez Wells four-year college career came to an end.
"You’re gonna lose some battles. I think this is all in the plan of how my career is gonna play out," Wells said in a phone interview.
This plan was a unique one.
Wells spent his freshman year at Xavier University, where he averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Dez tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the Musketeers’ journey ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Baylor.
After his first year, Wells transferred to the University of Maryland. He found a home in College Park, where he finished his final three seasons under Coach Mark Turgeon.
As a Terrapin he was without question the team's leader, winning 70 of his 98 games across three seasons, averaging 14.3 points on 57.7 percent true shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He guided the team back to the AP Top 25 for the first time in five seasons, making Maryland relevant again in the basketball community.
Next season's Terrapins team is already highly regarded, and could take the number-one overall preseason ranking after returning stars Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, while adding Diamond Stone, one of the top recruits in the nation, and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon.
"I didn’t reach out to those guys [Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon]. They wanted to come here because of the season we had. They believe in Coach Turgeon and what he's done at the University of Maryland. The winning tradition that we had… that we’re building towards getting back to… they believe in it."
Though he was hesitant to take any guesses, eventually he reflected on how next year’s team will fair, given all the hype.
"I’m not gonna put any predictions out. But I think they’ll finish on top of the Big Ten. At worst I think they’ll be a Sweet 16 team. At best I’ve got them winning it all."
In his four-year collegiate career, Wells played in three different conferences, earning honors in each. He was named to the Atlantic-10 Coaches All-Rookie Team in 2012, ACC All-Tournament First Team in 2013, All-ACC Third Team in 2014 and both the Coaches All-Big Ten First team and Media All-Big Ten Second team in 2015.
Now he has his mind set for the NBA, and since Maryland's early tournament loss in March, Wells has kept busy.
He continued to work on his game with his trainer, who he refers to as "Shot-Doc." In the weeks before he was ready to prove his worth to NBA scouts at the draft combine, he worked to perfect his game. Dez and his "Shot-Doctor," worked on his all-around game, specifically on his ball-handling and shot mechanics. Watching the first few series of the NBA playoffs, he also studied game tape, learning the importance of shooting off one or two dribbles, and controlling the pace of the game, slowing it down to his liking.
A short three weeks later he headed west to Chicago to take the first steps toward the next chapter of his life.
An invite-only event, this year's NBA draft combine provided a competitive but friendly atmosphere for 50 of the 91 early entry candidates to compete in scrimmages and athletic measurement tests.
In two scrimmages Wells totaled 24 points on 8 of 19 shooting, ten rebounds and seven assists. His box score numbers looked good, but his play wasn’t as good as we’ve seen from him. Dez seemed to agree, admitting his play wasn’t as good as it could have been.
"I give myself a C+. I think I forced too much, but I think I was aggressive when I needed to be and I think I shared the ball," Wells said. "[I showed] I could make the right plays and how to penetrate the defense. I showed how to play defense as well, with NBA court spacing."
Where he appeared to struggle most was at the point guard position, a spot he relinquished this past season to Big Ten All-Freshman teammate Melo Trimble. Wells may have to take command at point again at the NBA level. He measured in at just 6-foot-4 with shoes at the combine, which is on the smaller side for shooting guards – his natural spot.
He believes he’s a blend between the positions.
"I see myself as a combo guard. Somebody that can play the point. Somebody that can come off screens and shoot. And somebody that can score and be a playmaker for other people."
But it isn’t his offense he feels is the most NBA-ready aspect of his game.
"At the next level I think I’ll be a better defensive player. I work so hard on my game. Offensively I have a lot to learn to play in the NBA as a [combo guard]. In time I think I can be one of the best in that position."
Wells also believes he under-performed at one of the most hyped events at the combine: the maximum vertical leap. He still jumped impressively, the 11th highest at 39 inches, but proved he could perform better. Weeks later in a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, he jumped 43 inches, which would have tied for the second highest leap at the combine behind Pat Connaughton.
He stated the order of events at the combine caused his – and maybe others – deflated numbers.
"I played in the game and then we left the court and sat down and did interviews… so my body was stiff at that point."
Other draft hopefuls were able to jump before they scrimmaged a full 40-minute game and sat through a series of interviews.
It may not just have been the quantity of questions that caused Dez to stiffen, but also the quality. We’ve heard potential lottery pick and University of Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky discuss a ridiculous combine question, but Wells’ may be able to top that.
Though his weaknesses were on display, his performance at the combine still held strong.
"I don’t think I hurt my draft stock, I think I helped my stock, a lot. Regardless of what anyone thinks I’m confident, I know what I can bring to a team and to the game of basketball."
In the following weeks Wells began NBA team workouts. Listening to one of his favorite up and coming artists Post Malone, he flew out to the west coast accompanied by his brother. He played in front of the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers. A minor ankle injury – which he has since recovered from – kept him from participating in a workout with the Utah Jazz.
He has also worked out with the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. On June 11th he returned to the DMV area, and before going to the movies to see Jurassic World, he tried out with the Washington Wizards.
He has three remaining workouts with the Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets next week.
He’s had a draining summer, but the easygoing combo guard has also made time for fun. Hanging out with friends he’s spent time sightseeing, including the beaches of Malibu, California.
Though his thunderous dunks and demeanor on the court would suggest otherwise, Wells claims he remains low-key. "I’m a simple guy. I stay in my own lane." But even the most laid back have to enjoy the spotlight when its given to them.
On April 24th, he threw out the first pitch at Camden Yards before the start of the Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox.
Saving himself from a disastrous throw like his high school teammate and current Wizards point guard John Wall did in Washington, Wells threw a strike right down the middle.
"It’s was a big thing for me on the road to becoming an NBA player." Wells said planned to show pictures of the event to his future family.
He also spent some of his free-time with Chris Paul, who he calls not only a mentor, but also a big brother. Wells played for Paul’s sponsored AAU team, "CP3 All-Stars."
Wells was also the cameraman at Paul’s house who filmed possibly the least athletic move we’ve ever seen from another draft prospect, former Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell.
But finally we have answers for the cause of Russell’s terribly uncoordinated swing! Russell was using Chris Paul’s right-handed golf club.
"Chris swings right handed and D’Angelo is left handed. He was just trying to swing and make contact with [the ball]."
Though he’s living in the moment, the former Maryland star’s mind is scattered. As far as where he’ll be playing next season, his fate wont be decided until 60 names are called at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn June 25th. He plans to spend draft day at home with his family in Raleigh, North Carolina.
"I’ve heard everything from late first round to end of the second round. I got a feeling that I wouldn’t be drafted this year after hearing from teams and what they think so far, but you don’t know where you’re gonna go right now. At this point you have to wait until the draft. So many things can happen."
He hasn’t thought yet about playing in Europe.
"Right now I’m focused and I’m not gonna get that far ahead. I’m pretty sure I’ll get picked up by a team," Wells said.
Where he lands is a mystery, and the draft in two weeks is his first major step in his journey to play professional basketball.