Steve Wolf has seen future NBA players, memorable starters, role players and almost every other type of contributor during his 30-plus-year association with Xavier basketball.
But in meeting Dezmine Wells last year, Wolf – a former Musketeers co-captain and current television broadcaster – was introduced to an anomaly.
“He’s a kid that didn’t play like a freshman,” said Wolf, Xavier’s long-time color commentator. “He never played like a freshman. He’s a kid that could really, really go strong to the basket, but also square up and take the jump shot. … There are some areas he’s going to have to really work on his game, [but] he’s got so many skills, it’s unbelievable.”
Maryland will be the beneficiary of those skills, having bested Kentucky, Memphis and Oregon in a five-day battle for Wells’ services. The former four-star prospect averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in his lone season in Cincinnati.
Wolf was looking forward to watching Wells expand his game over the next three years. While the newest Terp exhibited great maturity during his freshman season, there were areas that could be improved upon.
“If he had one weakness last year, he would have 8-to-10 points in the first half and then just sort of blend in the scenery,” Wolf said. “He could’ve taken on more of a responsibility for scoring. Finally, he started doing it late in the year. He didn’t realize he was one of the guys they relied on.
“[But] he was really a game changer. 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.”
Wolf called Wells a “human-highlight reel” offensively and a “good defender” with the potential for dominance thanks to his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame.
“He’s a hard worker and really continues to get better on the defensive end,” Wolf said. “Same thing with rebounding. When he gets the rebound, he just goes. It’s really, really hard getting around him. He’s not only quick, but he’s deceptively quick, he’s strong and he’s explosive. A guy I compared him to as far as his body and getting to the rim is a guy like [Charles] Barkley. He has a Barkley-type body, very strong, compact. He can really get up.”
Finding out last month that Wells wouldn’t be allowed to return to Xavier was a major surprise to Wolf. The Musketeers announcer said he found Wells to be an “always affable, always approachable” college athlete with a consistently “positive, always upbeat” attitude. An allegation of sexual assault – which led to Wells’ expulsion from Xavier despite a grand jury’s decision to not indict him on charges – never made sense to Wolf.
“I have three daughters, and when it came out that he was expelled, it sort of hit me hard,” Wolf said. “He was always one of the good guys. Never would I have ever thought [he would have a disciplinary issue]. … I was actually shocked when I heard the allegations. I don’t know about due process and all that, but it shocked me. I really like Dez. So do his teammates. We were really taken aback by it.”
The exoneration of Wells was a relief to Wolf. The former Xavier star said he expected Wells to make up for much of the lost production of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, and potentially average around “14, 15 points a game” and “probably six or seven rebounds.” But even though Wells won’t get a chance to fulfill what Wolf thinks is pro potential at Xavier, the Musketeers broadcaster looks forward to watching the sophomore take the floor at Comcast Center.
“He really works hard and understands the game,” Wolf said. “He just wants to lace them up, go out there and play and get better and better. He continually got better last year. I was excited about him playing for a couple more years at Xavier. … But he’ll do really well in the ACC.”