Dezmine Wells and the eligibility issue

August, 30, 2012
The NCAA will have a potentially precedent-setting case if it decides to grant expelled Xavier forward Dezmine Wells immediate eligibility.

Wells took a visit Thursday to Kentucky. If he doesn't commit to the Wildcats right away, according to a source, he likely would visit Maryland during the weekend. Terrapins assistant coach Bino Ranson was on the Xavier staff while Wells was being recruited to the school. Memphis is also very much in the mix.

Each school would try to get Wells a waiver so he could play this season, despite the fall semester already starting. But the NCAA has a clear rule on this matter. NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said schools have the ability to file a waiver to allow immediate competition due to special circumstances.

The rule is, detailing disciplinary suspension:

A student who transfers to any NCAA institution from a collegiate institution while the student is disqualified or suspended from the previous institution for disciplinary reasons (as opposed to academic reasons) must complete one calendar year of residence at the certifying institution. (Revised: 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)

Osburn said the NCAA staff would review the waiver and consider several factors, including what "caused the dismissal from school and the results of any institutional appellate processes."

But would the NCAA grant immediate eligibility to a player who was expelled from another school? That is the question. It would certainly put Xavier in a poor light if that were to occur.

Wells was expelled for a "serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct.'' Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski told that the athletic department had nothing to do with the decision and that this was the university's call.

The Xavier conduct board ruled on the matter, which involved allegations of a sexual assault. The ruling was upheld by an appeals board at the university, but a county grand jury declined to charge Wells on Tuesday, and Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters and Wells attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker issued strong statements about the way in which Xavier handled the case

On the court, the Wells departure is a crushing blow for the Musketeers, who already were losing Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Kenny Frease off last season's Sweet 16 team.

Wells started 32 games as a freshman in 2011-12 and was set to be the team's leading returning scorer. He was on the Atlantic 10 all-rookie team and averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.

So where will he end up? If Wells was cleared to play immediately, he obviously would be a huge boost for any of the reported finalists.

He would give scoring and rebounding help, as well as much-needed game experience to Kentucky's youthful team. The Wildcats will lean heavily on freshmen like Willie Cauley, Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel, along with sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and Wright State transfer Julius Mays. But Wells would add even more depth and pop to the defending champs.

Memphis would have playing time available next to Tarik Black, Shaq Goodwin, Ferrakohn Hall and Adonis Thomas.

But Maryland may need his game experience more than any other team, with the youngest roster among the three contenders. The Terrapins have some veteran experience, but also will be trying to incorporate five freshmen into the mix, including Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman. Evan Smotrycz is a Michigan transfer and has to sit out the year.

Will Wells have to do the same? First he has to pick a school, then he'll wait to see on the waiver.

The case is tricky. A precedent would be set. And the direction of a season could change for one of the schools, with the decision on his eligibility possibility not coming until the start of practice in October.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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