It was not exactly the debut that Dez Wells wanted.
But the transfer -- who started against Kentucky and is expected to become one of Maryland’s best players this season -- said afterward that he was gratified to be playing. And to be a Terp.
“It was a great experience being out there,” Wells said. “When I took my visit to Maryland, they stole my heart. I wouldn’t want to be any place but Maryland.”
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Among the schools Wells had considered was Kentucky, which defeated the Terps 72-69.
Wells got a loud ovation from the many Maryland fans in the sold-out Barclays Center when he was introduced.
Wells’ first basket came on a baseline drive to cut Kentucky’s margin to 31-22 in the first half. He had missed his first three shots from the floor.
Wells scored eight points on 2-for-12 shooting. The player struggled during the game with leg cramps.
Wells learned this week that he would receive a waiver to the transfer rule and be permitted to play this season. He was expelled from Xavier after a sexual assault allegation that a prosecutor said was unproven.
Maryland not only accepted Wells, but embraced him and has already called him a team leader. In one play Friday night, he saved a ball near the sideline and flipped head-over-heels into the crowd.
Wells embraced coach Mark Turgeon when he was introduced at the start of the game.
Turgeon "was just telling me to calm down, collect your emotions and just play basketball," Wells said. "When he told me I was eligible [earlier in the week] it was probably the most emotion Coach Turgeon will ever see out of me besides playing basketball."
Maryland had lost its initial request to the NCAA to allow Wells to play this season. But Maryland won on its appeal.
“Those guys got it done for me,” Wells said.