Dez Wells took pride in wearing No. 32 during his first two years at Maryland, becoming only the second Terp to take the number in the nearly 20 years since former star Joe Smith left College Park as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Going into his senior year, Wells will finally get a chance to do something he’s been thinking about since high school – wear No. 44 to honor the memory of a former Amateur Athletic Union teammate who was killed in a 2010 car crash.
Though he is still listed as No. 32 on the Maryland roster, Wells said Friday that he planned to make the switch for the team’s first season in the Big Ten.
As members of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based CP3 All-Stars, Wells and Detrique Baker, a skinny 6-foot-9 center who had moved to Raleigh from Texas while in high school, talked about playing college basketball together.
“We were both being recruited to go to Xavier,” Wells said Friday.
Wells got there after a finishing high school in Raleigh and then going for a year to prep school.
Baker never made it. On July 1, 2010, Baker was one of four passengers who were killed when the SUV they were riding in overturned and crashed outside Raleigh.
According to reports, Baker was identified by a tattoo of a basketball on his chest and one with his mother’s name on his arm.
“I always wanted to wear 44 to honor him,” Wells said Friday.
This is the first time Wells has the chance.
The number was worn by another Xavier player when Wells arrived there as a freshman in 2011. Wells wore No. 5 for his only season at Maryland.
By the time he got to Maryland the following summer, No. 44 had already been given to incoming freshman Shaquille Cleare. It became available at Maryland when Cleare announced he was transferring in April.
Wells will become the second former AAU teammate of Baker's to honor him.
In 2012, Rodney Purvis wore 44 in Baker's honor at the McDonald’s high school All-Star game. After wearing No. 0 at North Carolina State as a freshman, Purvis took No. 44 when he transferred to eventual national champion Connecticut last season.