Dez Wells, who is from Raleigh and played at Word of God High, has a specific role on the Maryland team – bring energy.
That's what he did Thursday night, when the Terps were in a tough situation against Wake Forest in the first round.
"I'm an energy guy on this team," he said after Maryland's 75-62 win. "They go as I go. That may be unfair but that's my role."
And that's what he'll look to do Friday night at 7 p.m., when he faces another Raleigh product – Duke's Ryan Kelly – that he well remembers from his high school days.
Wells, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, remembers when Kelly, a Duke senior, played at Ravenscroft, and Kelly, Wells and Word of God's John Wall had some memorable games against each other.
"He's the same player," Wells said of Kelly. "He's gotten a lot better. But he's been the same since high school."
And he knows how much better the Blue Devils are when the 6-foot-10 Kelly is on the floor. Kelly missed the previous two Maryland games with a foot injury, including the Terps' dramatic 83-81 win in College Park Feb. 16. Wells had nine points, seven assists and seven rebounds – as well as five fouls and six turnovers – in that game. The Duke-Maryland series has often been chippy, and that game ended with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski complaining about security for his team at Maryland.
Without Kelly, Duke looked like a team that was often straining. The Devils lacked depth inside and missed the strong screens and deft shooting of Kelly.
With Kelly back, Duke beat Miami and hammered Virginia Tech and North Carolina. In that UNC win in particular, Duke had the look of a team capable of steaming to the Final Four.
Wells said Maryland won't make any fundamental changes to how it approaches Duke now that Kelly is back on the floor. The biggest change, he said, is the Maryland defenders will have to help out more.
"I expect Duke to be Duke. They'll be who they are. We'll have to be who we are as a team," he said.
And Kelly? He'll be the same player Wells remembers from Ravenscroft. The two didn't speak often then during those ferocious high school games, Wells said.
"When we did talk," he said, "it wasn't anything polite we'd say to each other."
Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Blue Ridge Music Festival.