Maryland received a significant boost in its efforts to return to prominence by landing expelled Xavier forward Dez Wells, who was accused of sexual assault but was not charged by a grand jury.
It is a coup for the Terrapins, who won out over visited Memphis, Oregon and Kentucky in the past week.
“The last couple of weeks have been the toughest time in my life for my family and I,” Wells wrote via Twitter on this week. “I’ve learned that it is a major responsibility that comes with being a student athlete at all times. I’m thankful that God has blessed me with a second opportunity to continue my education.”
If/when he officially transfers, Maryland will ask the NCAA for a waiver to allow the sophomore to play next season instead of having to sit out a year. The probability of that happening is miniscule, but knowing Wells will be there is a great comfort to a Maryland program that is under its second ear for rebuilding under coach Mark Sturgeon.
Even though it was premature for Xavier banish Wells before the facts came out, there is no precedent of the NCAA allowing a player to not miss a year after being kicked out of a school.
Wells said Xavier overreacted to a claim that he sexually assaulted a woman.
“I didn’t think the process was fair,” he told CBS Sports. “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.
“But I still appreciate everything that Xavier has done for me. It’s been tough, but I am honestly thankful for everything Xavier has done for me.”
Wells, a 20-year-old native of Raleigh, N.C., says the sexual assault charges stemmed from a “Truth or Dare” game that ultimately ended in consensual sex. The next day, his partner claimed she had been sexually assaulted. The school acted swiftly and decisively in expelling Wells earlier this month.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters, when announcing that a grand jury declined to pursue charges, blasted the Xavier administration on Tuesday for its handling of the case.
Now, Wells moves on to Maryland.
A 6-foot-5 sophomore, Wells started 32 games as a freshman at Xavier last year and averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds on a veteran team. He would have been the obvious choice to assume the role of go-to scorer for the Musketeers next season after the departure of Mark Lyons, Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease.
During the 2013-14 season, with Wells as a part of the team, Maryland could bolt back into a top 20 program. The Terps are battling Kentucky for twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, two of the Class of 2013’s elite players. If Sturgeon lands them, too, look out for the Terps.