The relationship between Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and Dez Wells has always been a little different from most others the Maryland coach has with his players.
Turgeon didn’t recruit Wells out of high school, but gave him a place to land after Wells was expelled – unjustly, as it turned out – from Xavier after his freshman year.
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A little more than a year into his career with the Terps, Wells is the most talented athlete on Maryland’s young team, but the 6-foot-5 junior is still trying to find himself as a basketball player.
A natural leader because of his ability and personality, Wells seemed to have everything in place for a breakout season until Seth Allen broke his foot a couple of weeks ago.
Suddenly, Wells was being asked to be the point guard, a position he had not played since high school and one that still doesn’t seem to be natural for him.
What could have been a defining moment for Wells in the season opener against Connecticut on Friday turned into a disappointing one when Wells missed two shots in the closing seconds of a 78-77 defeat.
Then came Wednesday night against Abilene Christian, when Wells took a seat on the Maryland bench early in the first half and didn’t return until early in the second half. "Miscommunication" is what Turgeon called it. "He regrets it."
While Turgeon downplayed the situation and talked up his relationship with Wells – “We have a great relationship -- not a good one, a great one,” Turgeon said – it could be something to watch as the season goes on.
“I’m not concerned about it at all,” Turgeon said. “It’s early in the season, so you’ve got to set the rules.”
Wells was moved off the point Wednesday in favor of freshman point guard Roddy Peters. Turgeon said he made the move because sophomore Jake Layman did not start as a result of an injury, and that Wells would go back to the point Sunday.
Turgeon said he was pleased with the way Wells played in the second half.
“I thought he was the one who really got Jake going. He was the one who found Jake on a lot of those. He had a couple of sloppy turnovers early; he really wasn’t into it. The second half, I don’t think he turned the ball over,” Turgeon said. “He did a lot of nice things. I thought he got the break going and he played with a lot of energy.”
Wells was not among the two players made available to the media after the game. (Jake Layman, who led Maryland with 19 points and spurred a game-closing 29-0 run was one, and Charles Mitchell, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, was the other.)
Layman, who led Maryland back from an 11-point deficit in the first half, said: “Dez is our leader. I’m trying to be more of a leader. ... I think I should actually start doing it more.”
Layman said the Terps are better equipped to handle adversity, which they faced against Abilene Christian without Wells, than a year ago.
“When Dez is on the bench, we can’t have that mindset that ‘oh, he’s on the bench, we’re done now, there’s nothing for us to do,” Layman said. “We need to work on that and get leaders on the floor to get into our stuff.”
There doesn't seem to be anything simmering between Turgeon and a player most consider the most important piece of his developing team. But as Wells adjusts to a new role on a team with heightened expectations, there will be more eyes watching his and Turgeon’s relationship.
Four points, four rebounds in 19 minutes is not going to do it for Maryland to take the next step.