In five days Dezmine Wells visited four college campuses, starting with a trip to Lexington, Ky., a stopover at Memphis, a visit to College Park and a jaunt across the country to Eugene, Ore.
When Wells returned to his Raleigh, N.C., home Monday, the Xavier transfer, family and friends stayed up until 1 a.m. discussing his options. On Tuesday morning, Wells posted the end result of Monday’s late-night talks on Twitter.
“After careful consideration with my family, I’ve decided to attend the University of Maryland,” wrote Wells, who also considered Kentucky, Memphis and Oregon.
Wells averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in his lone season with the Musketeers. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing would have been Xavier’s returning leading scorer this season. But last month, Wells was expelled from Xavier for a “serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct.”
Last week, however, a grand jury in Ohio’s Hamilton County declined to indict Wells on a sexual assault allegation. Despite being exonerated by the judicial system, Wells was not allowed to return to Xavier.
“I didn’t think the process was fair,” Wells told CBSSports.com last week. “I went into it as guilty and having to prove my innocence instead of them having to prove that I was guilty. I feel like everyone rushed the process and panicked. They went with a gut feel. I understand the severity of the accusations. Rape is one of the highest felonies in the world, but I think they just panicked.”
Wells’ case was unusual in that the Hamilton County prosecutor, Joseph T. Deters, not only announced the grand jury’s decision but seemed to advocate for Xavier to give the player another hearing.
“I have nothing but the greatest respect for Xavier University, and in particular [university president Michael] Fr. Graham,” Deters said in a written statement Aug. 28. “I would sincerely hope the institution would revisit this situation.”
Maryland was working on procedures that could finalize Wells’ transfer, but hadn’t made an announcement as of Tuesday night.
With his name cleared last week, Wells embarked on his hectic schedule of college visits. Kendrick L. Williams, Wells’ former AAU coach with the North Carolina-based D-One Sports, was involved in the whirlwind recruitment from Day 1, along with the future Terp’s mother, sister and another former coach. Williams and Wells’ other advisers paid attention to when each school had deadlines for enrollment. With fall semester beginning, the timeline for Wells’ decision was “very short.”
“The deadline had to be [Monday] night, with the understanding that he has to be at his destination within 12 hours of releasing the statement,” Williams said.
While the five-day recruitment was “very stressful,” Maryland offered the former four-star prospect a sense of relief.
“It was just more of a comfort level,” Williams said. “How the coaches made him feel. How he [connected with] the head coach and the assistant coaches. The DMV area, geographically, was big with him as well. And just the style of play and what the head coach showed about the things he could possibly do there this year.”
Steve Wolf, a former Musketeers captain and Xavier’s color commentator for television broadcasts, said Wells should have no trouble fitting into Mark Turgeon’s system. Wells quickly earned a reputation last year as “a human-highlight reel.”
“He was really a game changer,” Wolf said. “In the beginning of the year, he would just try to dunk over everybody. He had a couple of games where he missed a dunk, and it really cost Xavier. I think he said, ‘Hey, I don’t need to be in the highlights. I just need to go in and dunk it normally.’ At any time, you would just drop your jaw [watching him make] an earth-shattering slam dunk. He’s that strong.”
Wells, who will likely file an appeal with the NCAA to play immediately, is the third transfer Maryland has landed this offseason, joining power forward Evan Smotrycz (Michigan) and shooting guard Logan Aronhalt (Albany). Whenever he is eligible to play for the Terps — be it this season or next — Wells is expected to be a major contributor at the 2 or the 3.
“Being able to get up and down the floor and [showcase] his athleticism, that’s a big plus for Dezmine as well,” Williams said. “[With] his physicality and his athleticism ... I think in the ACC, he’ll be very successful.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.
With Wells’ addition, Maryland will have two scholarships remaining heading into the 2013-14 season. Much can change before then, but here’s a roster breakdown as it stands right now:
1. Damonte Dodd, freshman
2. Charles Mitchell, sophomore
3. Shaquille Cleare, sophomore