Those who earn the nickname "Mama's Boy" are expected to be soft.
But soft would never describe Maryland guard Dez Wells, who credits his mother for his decidedly masculine game. In an age where the prototypical wing guard shoots 3-pointers, defends the perimeter and dunks in transition, Wells prefers the bump and grind found near the lane.
On a team whose identity is forming around the power supplied by 7-foot-1 Alex Len and freshmen bruisers Shaquille Cleare (6-9, 270) and Charles Mitchell (6-8, 260), the broad-shouldered Wells (6-5, 215) marches to the same beat. His philosophy on offense is, the closer to the basket, the better, and the more contact he can draw, the better.
"My mom always taught me to be tough," Wells said. "At any point, she wanted me to outwork people, to just really grind. That's the way I've been my whole life."
Pamela Wells was a Division II All-American at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C. She was a 6-foot-1 forward who taught her son the game the old-fashioned way.
"She always used to block my shot. I guess that's just how I learned to finish, through contact and around taller people," Wells said. "The way that I play and everything I do is just a reflection of how great my mom is, as a person and as a basketball player."
Sunday in the BB&T Classic, after Wells scored 25 workmanlike points in a 69-62 victory over George Mason, it appeared that Maryland had its new leader. There is no elegance to the game of Wells. He epitomizes the style fostered by coach Mark Turgeon, who values physical and mental toughness above all else.
On Sunday, Wells talked of winning a game against his mother for the first time. He was 12 or 13 years old, about 5-7 or 5-8. It was at Lions Park in Raleigh.
"She always told me, if I can beat her, I can beat anybody. So I've always kept that as motivation -- that nobody is better than me," Wells said. "That confidence -- I guess that can get us over the hump. Going out there as a team and not believing that anybody is better than us because the game, you know, is 90 percent mental."
And in the case of Wells, a little bit physical, too.
- Kevin Dunleavy