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By LARRY VAUGHT
For weeks Kentucky coach John Calipari has warned that his team, ranked in the top five of preseason polls, could start the season with losses to Maryland tonight and Duke Tuesday in neutral site games.
Now that former Xavier guard Dez Wells has been cleared to play for Maryland tonight against UK in Brooklyn, it would seem the Cats chances of winning are even more difficult. However, Calipari said Thursday he was glad Wells — who considered a transfer to UK after he was booted out of Xavier for disciplinary reasons but not found guilty of any wrongdoing in a court of law — would be playing.
“I am happy. I hate it when I see kids being held out. Give the benefit of the doubt to the kid if you care about kids,” said Calipari. “If we are all in this for them, then give the benefit of the doubt to the kid and obviously that is what they have done. It probably went up the ladder beyond this and was probably president to president. Probably went up there.
“Doesn’t matter, it is good for that kid and really good for Maryland. He will make Maryland, legitimately, one of those teams because they were good enough but needed that one guy and he is that one guy. He is that good. You do not understand what Dez does for their team. They go from a team going to be good to team saying who in the ACC can’t we compete with.”
Calipari said he thought Wells was “outstanding” when he met with him about coming to Kentucky.
“You worry about that kid and that kid being able to play and that is good for him. If we are going to make a mistake, make it in leaning towards a kid not away. Don’t worry about the program he is going to. Zero back on what is right for this kid and if the benefit of the doubt leans towards this kid, let him play,” Calipari said.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is certainly glad to have Wells playing.
“He makes us better offensively. He knows when to pass and shoot, can get to the rim. Defensively, he can get after a guy,” the Maryland coach said. “He takes on a challenge and will help there (on defense). He gives us more depth, more versatility. He has that experience which we don’t have.
“Dez is the kid of player that makes everybody around him better. I think he’ll help Nick Faust the most. It takes a lot of pressure off him. It gives him an experienced player next to him. But it benefits everybody. I think it gives all the players more confidence and gives the coaches more confidence knowing he will be playing.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though it is Kentucky-Louisville week and the start of the college football season, basketball talk never goes away at Kentucky — at least not since John Calipari came to Kentucky.
So what if it is the end of August, there is always UK basketball recruiting news:
— Power forward Julius Randle, now the top-ranked player by Rivals.com in the 2013 recruiting class, set his in-home visit with UK for Sept. 9, the first day coaches are allowed to visit. He also set his official visit to UK for the Sept. 15 weekend when Calipari will have a slew of NBA players on campus as part of his fantasy camp experience. Don’t think it is a coincidence that Randle wants to be there when he can ask former Calipari players how much he helped them fulfill their dream of playing in the NBA and get a feel for what the coach can do for them.
— Former Xavier guard Dez Wells is on the UK campus for a few days as he contemplates his future. He was kicked out of Xavier for a “serious violation of the student code of conduct” after the 6-5 guard had allegations of rape made against him by a student that Wells admitted having consensual sexual activity with. A grand jury did not pursue any charges.
Wells waveraged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during his freshman season at Xavier and will have three years of eligibility left.
Two questions jump out here: Can he be cleared to play quick enough to get enrolled in school for this semester and would he receive a waiver to play this season which certainly would make him even more valuable to UK? What impact would his transfer to UK have on the super talented 2013 recruiting class where Calipari seems positioned to bring in a mega class again?
— Michigan’s James Young, a UK target who had a terrific summer, transferred from Troy High School to Rochester High School this week. Rochester coach John Pleasant told the Royal Tribune in Royal Oak, Mich., that Young’s mother enrolled him in school (that doesn’t start until next week) and that he got a phone call from his athletics director telling him. The 6-6 Young averaged 26.5 points, 11 rebounds and six assists per game last year. ESPN now has him ranked No. 5 nationally.