Former San Miguel Beer import Dez Wells has found a home in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) where he’s called Xiaolong or “Little Dragon” but if there’s a chance to return to the PBA someday, he wouldn’t hesitate to come back. Wells, 29, was the 2019 Governors Cup leading scorer, averaging 37.1 points, when he left the country after a fracas at a San Miguel practice. He powered the Beermen to a 4-0 start then San Miguel lost three of its next four games before his exit.
“At the time, I felt the best thing was I went my way,” said Wells during a recent one-hour session on the EASL Clubhouse room that was attended by several basketball figures, including Thirdy Ravena. “San Miguel treated me like family. The Philippines is one of my favorite places I’ve ever played in, I love it there. It’s warm weather all day long. Outside of basketball, I enjoyed hanging out, going shopping, watching movies, working out in the gym. I stay in touch with the guys, especially Chris Ross who greeted me on my birthday (April 15). There’s genuine interest. We check in with each other like we’re a brotherhood. We’re serious about our basketball. It’s all love, we make sure we’re doing the right thing, our focus is to win games. The PBA was more than what I expected. I heard about the CBA and PBA about the same time when I was playing in Italy in 2017-18. I didn’t expect the PBA to be as physical, it taught me a lot and got me ready for China.”
Wells’ baptism of fire in Asia was with San Miguel at the Terrific 12 tournament in Macau right before the Governors Cup. “It was great playing for San Miguel,” he said. “I was nervous in the Terrific 12 which was my introduction to Asia. I wanted to make a good impression. I got into a rhythm early and I never looked back. I miss my teammates like Terrence (Romeo). It was fun playing with him, he’s really quick, exciting, he knows how to pass, he’s tough to guard, his handles are very tight, he doesn’t back down and I didn’t expect him to be so aggressive. He’s like our engine, a microwave off the bench, he’s chasing balls, getting buckets, he’s just an awesome guy to play with.”
After playing three years as a varsity star and earning an American Studies degree at the University of Maryland in 2015, Wells went undrafted in the NBA but managed to play in the preseason with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played three seasons with the Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA G-League and also suited up for Chicago and Detroit in two NBA Summer Leagues. Before moving to Asia, Wells saw action in Greece and Italy. “My dream has always been to play in the NBA but my goal is to take care of my family,” he said. “I thought it was time for a payoff. I pushed myself further, doing what I love. I feel good with what I’ve accomplished. This CBA season, it’s been tough to play in a bubble, in one central location but the key is to stay consistent with your level of excellence. You put in the work, don’t lower expectations for yourself, be responsible every game, do what works for you, connect under one coach with one concept. Work hard at practice and it translates to your game. Communication and discipline are important. It’s a wonderful experience playing in China. The CBA is very competitive, Chinese players are getting better and better and I’m enjoying playing with the Jiangsu Dragons. In the Terrific 12, I was surprised that whenever San Miguel played, it was like our homecourt. I didn’t know how large the Filipino community was. Filipino fans are always passionate. Even in Dubai, there are lots of Filipino fans and it’s a thrill to play for them.”