COLLEGE PARK – Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said Friday afternoon the program has started the process of applying for a waiver to grant former Xavier standout Dezmine Wells immediate eligibility.
Wells, a sophomore wing, formally signed with the Terps on Friday and has enrolled in classes. He announced his commitment to the program Tuesday after visiting four schools — Kentucky, Memphis, Maryland and Oregon — in five days.
Wells, who was the Musketeers’ fourth-leading scorer last year at 9.8 points per game, was expelled last month amid allegations of sexual assault by a young woman. A Hamilton County (Ohio) court decided not to pursue charges last week.
The case would set a precedent should Wells become eligible to play in 2012-13. The NCAA has never allowed an expelled Division I athlete to avoid sitting out a year.
Turgeon said it will take a week or two for the school to submit the waiver, and that the NCAA will likely take an additional three weeks to deliver a ruling. That means Wells’ eligibility should be decided in mid-October.
“I’m always optimistic,” Turgeon said. “But I feel great about our administration, that they’re behind this and they’ll help us put our appeal together. I think we’ll have a great case.”
And if that happens, the Terps could contend for an NCAA tournament berth this season. Wells would join a roster that features NBA prospects Nick Faust and Alex Len, and a top-20 freshman class that includes U-18 national team member Jake Layman.
“After last year, looking at injuries and situations where we just didn’t have enough depth, we were trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Turgeon said. “You just try and acquire talent and you just mix it all together.”
Turgeon said the Terps have not yet approached Xavier to help construct a case for an NCAA waiver. Based on the information he has, though, Turgeon said he doesn’t expect the school to obstruct Wells’ pursuit to play this year.
“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes,” he said. “This week was just trying to get him into school and get him settled. We’ll start working on the waiver a lot more this week.”