When Cameron Wells was a freshman at The Citadel, his forays into the lane frequently ended with twisting shots that were high on degree of difficulty and low on field-goal percentage.
A reporter asked former Bulldogs basketball coach Ed Conroy, "Don't you want Cam just to pull up sometimes and take a simple jumper?"
"I don't know," Conroy said. "I'd hate to put a lid on Cam and what he can do."
Three years later, Wells, a 6-1 senior from Houston, is the all-time leading scorer in Citadel history with 1,670 points. He passed Regan Truesdale's 25-year-old record of 1,661 points in The Citadel's last game, a 59-55 loss to SIU- Edwardsville on Dec. 23 at the Las Vegas Classic. He will take the court at home for the first time since breaking the record when the Bulldogs host Chowan at 3 p.m. today at McAlister Field House.
Currently averaging 14.4 points per game and with at least 20 games left in his career, Wells is on pace to finish his career with 1,958 points and has an outside shot at becoming the program's first 2,000-point scorer.
In typically modest fashion, Wells immediately starts talking about his teammates when asked about the record.
"I think of it as a team award," he said before practice Thursday. "I mean, I couldn't have done it without Zach (Urbanus) or Austin (Dahn), all the freshmen we came in with. It just shows that hard work pays off."
For a player with aspirations for a pro career, the hard work is really just beginning. During the Bulldogs' grueling nine-day, four-game road trip before Christmas, Citadel coaches played Wells tape of NBA guards like Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash and Deron Williams in an effort to show him how he can get even better.
"We wanted to show him some pros, guys who come down and use ball screens, guys that can get their team into transition," Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. "We wanted him to see where they catch the ball, how they use a screen, how they turn the corner, how they get into the paint and then some of the decisions that they make.
"We feel like Cam can do that, that he has that kind of ability. In our offense, we set those kinds of screens for him, so we wanted him to see how those guys handle it, because they are really good at it. They are really good at reading the defense and taking their man off the screen. There is so much to that ball-screen offense that you can't just pick it up like that. You have to work at it and study it, and I think it has helped him."
Wells' scoring average is down slightly from last year, when he scored 17.2 points per game, due in large part to a 68-53 loss to Davidson on Dec. 4, when Wells fouled out with only two points. But he's shooting better from 3-point range (33.3 percent to 26.2) and averaging more assists per game (4.6 to 4.1).
"You've always got to get better, and I think that's what Coach is trying to do for me," Wells said. "He sees potential, I guess, and just wants me to improve my game any way I can."
Driesell, hired last spring to succeed Conroy, heard a lot about Wells before he started coaching him.
"I've been very impressed with him as a player and as a person," Driesell said. "He's skilled and has a good feel for the game, all those things that people told me. He's a go-to guy, and if he doesn't score it, he gets it to someone who will. Coming in, I felt pretty good that I had a player like that in Cam, and he's been that for us."
NBA scouts have been checking on Wells this season. Could a player from The Citadel have a shot at the league?
"That's always tricky, trying to figure out who will make it," Driesell said. "People would ask us last year at Maryland about Greivis Vasquez, is he going to make it? And here's a guy who was ACC player of the year.
"If the team wins, that's such a huge part of a young man making it to the pros. I'm convinced that because we had the kind of year we did last year at Maryland, Vasquez went where he did in the draft (No. 28, to Memphis). So if we have a good year and Cam has a good stat line, yeah, I think he's got a shot."
Wells deflects all that talk, saying he's only worried about this season. At 4-8, the Bulldogs are not off to a great start, but in many ways they already are a much different team than they were six weeks ago. The emergence of 6-8 sophomore Mike Groselle, who has averaged 15 points over the last six games, gives the 4-8 Bulldogs an inside threat as they face road games at Clemson, at Wofford and at Furman to start the new year.
"Mike has certainly stepped up and given us an inside presence," Driesell said. "And since we are an inside-out offense, that's huge for us."
--The Citadel will honor Wells for becoming the top scorer in school history before the Jan. 13 home game against Chattanooga.
Who: Chowan at The Citadel
When: 3 p.m.
Where: McAlister Field House