Maryland senior guard Dez Wells will have a different jersey number for his final season of college basketball as the North Carolina native will honor the memory of his late former grassroots teammate, Detrique Baker.
Although the switch from No. 32 to Wells’ new number, 44, hasn’t taken place on the official Maryland basketball website, Wells told the Baltimore Sun on Friday that he plans on making the switch.
Wells and Baker played together on the CP3 All-Stars in high school and Wells said he and the 6-foot-9 Baker talked about potentially playing at Xavier together after high school.
Xavier ended up landing Wells after a year in prep school, but Baker was killed in a car accident on July 1, 2010. According to reports, Baker was one of four passengers who were killed when the SUV they were traveling in overturned and crashed near Raleigh. Baker was identified by a basketball tattoo on his chest and another tattoo that featured his mother’s name on his arm.
“I always wanted to wear 44 to honor him,” Wells said.
The number 44 was never available to Wells until this season. At Xavier, Wells wore the No. 5 — as 44 was taken — and the last two years at Maryland former big man Shaquille Cleare wore the number before transferring this offseason. Cleare’s departure paved the way for Wells to claim the No. 44 to honor his late friend.
But as the Baltimore Sun story notes, Wells isn’t the only player to wear the No. 44 to honor Detrique Baker. Another former member of the CP3 All-Stars, Rodney Purvis, wore No. 44 at the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2012 and also opted to take the same number when he transferred to UConn from North Carolina State last offseason.
This is a nice story and a nice way for Wells — and Purvis — to honor the memory of Detrique Baker.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.