Summer Camp: Dez Wells

Dez, doing what Dez does. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For romantics and creepy old men at beaches everywhere, the end of summer is the death knell of fun and romance. Days get shorter, nights get cooler, and everyone starts wearing more clothing. Most years, anyway, fall rain and wind herald the end of the heady nights out on the town. That thinking, however, is not shared by Banners on the Parkway. Eager to get the long days of running in 100 degree heat behind us and ready for the sounds of gym shoes and whistles to replace those of waves and the laughter of large groups, we’re already embarking on our season previews.

Dee Davis got off to a good start, but needs to add some strength and get used to running the offense by himself. Brad Redford could use just a bit more of a threat from somewhere other than beyond the three point line, and Justin Martin just needs to start trying harder. That brings to Dez Wells.

At the beginning of last year I opined that no incoming freshman in Xavier history had ever faced the weight of expectations that Dezmine Wells did. A rippling wall of muscle and athleticism, Wells was hyped as one of the first young talents to choose Xavier even after the self-styled big boys came knocking. Wells himself was a bit more quiet, seemingly content to bide his time on a team controlled by two explosive guards from New York.

Wells announced himself on the scene in most impressive way possible against an overmatched Morgan St on 11/11/11. Dez scored 12, grabbed four boards, had two assists and threw down one of the most vicious dunks in recorded history off of a lob from Mark Lyons. According to us: "Mark Lyons was holding the ball just left of the top of the key when Wells broke off a screen in the right corner. Lyons, seeing the chance, threw the ball toward the rim. The freshman was in acres of space but, as Wells approached in flight, the ball began to tail behind him. Seemingly effortlessly, Dez reached back with his off (left) hand and whipped the ball home viciously. A brief moment of silence preceded the second biggest cheer of the night as Wells jogged back down the court as if nothing had happened." From there, Wells embarked on one of the best freshman years in recent memory.

Wells went on to score in double figures 15 more times in the 2011-12 season. Scatterd amongst those sterling efforts were also three zero point efforts and some truly awful (2-9, 1-6, 3-9) nights from the floor. Reliant on his ability to drive and score in traffic, Wells was often neutralized by teams that could force him to pull up and use his jumper. When that became the only option, Dez was left to pass or begin hoisting in an attempt to keep teams honest. When Wells failed to make a three, he averaged 8.4 points per game. In games in which he did connect, he averaged 12 points. Dez finished the season taking 1.7 threes per game.

Of those 1.7 attempts an average of 37% dropped. While that number is very respectable (it was second on the team) it is a marked drop from the 50.4% that Dez shot from inside the arc. Teams were clearly more comfortable with the small forward firing from range. Some teams it burned (UMass: 4-5, 19 points) but other teams were able to force Dez outside to great effect (Richmond: 0-3, 6 points). To Dez’ credit, he never missed more than three in a game.

The other potential achilles heel in the sophomore’s game is his free throw shooting. 67.5% isn’t horrid, but converting and ones would do a great deal to earn the Musketeers more cheap points each night. Marks like a 2-5 against Butler or his 7-11 against Notre Dame aren’t overtly bad, but Wells left points on the court each night with his performance from the line.

It’s difficult to pick too much out of Wells’ game that needs major correcting. He’s capable of scoring in bunches and in varied manners. When properly motivated, he’s a rebounding machine. On top of that, he added an assist and a steal per game. For a freshman, Dezmine Wells had a massive season. Xavier fans can only hope that he is putting in the time to get even better.

You’ll know it is working when: A team forces Dez outside and he torches them for it. Umass found out what can happen when Wells is hot and it opens up the lanes he thrives on. If he becomes an outside shooter comparable to Mark Lyons (certainly not out of the question), he could singlehandedly blow some games wide open. It’s clear from watching him that the young man thrives on energy. If he is the one creating the energy like against Notre Dame 14/11/1, he’s nearly unstoppable.

You should be worry if: Wells faces a zone and looks hesitant. If Dez is afraid to pull from deep or doesn’t have the green light to do so, he’ll be forced to attempt to outrun and outjump everyone for every point he gets. That can work for a while, but there is a reason that Dez only averaged 26.1 minutes per game and was dinged up by the end of the year. Constant 100% effort will wear even the best of bodies down.

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