Baltimore native Dayshawn “Day Day” Wells’ official title may be Marquette’s video coordinator, but he’s a trusted and valued asset to head coach Shaka Smart’s staff who serves many roles outside of breaking down film and helping to formulate game strategy.
When No. 2 seed Marquette tips off against No. 15 Vermont in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, followers of the Baltimore grassroots hoops scene will see a familiar young face on the Golden Eagles sideline in Wells.
Wells literally grew up in basketball gyms, starting when his father, Billy Wells, was a star player at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in the early to mid-’90s, playing alongside future NFL player Tommy Polley, St. John’s star Bootsy Thornton and Maryland Terrapin big man Rodney Elliott.
“Billy was a lefty guard who could really shoot the ball,” Elliott said. “He never met a shot that he didn’t like. And if his jumper wasn’t falling, he’d take his man down low and get busy in the post because he was really crafty with that left hand.”
Dayshawn was born when Billy and his wife Sherna were still in high school. At the raucous Dunbar games, the infant was there soaking up the atmosphere in his stroller.
“He’s literally been around basketball from the moment he came out of the womb,” Billy said.
Billy played his college ball at the University of Delaware for then-head coach Mike Brey, and Billy’s 5-year-old son was a constant presence in the gym and at practices.
When the team would break their huddles, with everyone’s hands piled atop each other at the center of the circle, you’d hear a little squeaky voice yelling, “1-2-3!” before the players yelled in unison, “TEAM!”
“When my dad was going to his summer school classes, I’d be in the gym all day getting up shots and hanging out with Coach Brey in his office,” Dayshawn said. “It was pretty cool when we played Notre Dame this year and I got to holler at Coach Brey before the game. It was a full-circle moment for me.”
He honed his skills playing in Baltimore’s hoops incubators at the Chick Webb and Walter P. Carter recreation centers. He developed into one of the area’s top point guards at St. Frances.
“Day Day was my team captain as a senior and ran the show for our nationally ranked team that finished 34-5,” St. Frances head coach Nick Myles said. “He was one of the smartest and most mature kids that I’ve ever coached. And he was the true definition of a pure point guard who was selfless. He sacrificed his own scoring stats for the team.
“He was the glue to that team, guarded the opposition’s best player and everything he did on the floor as a defender, passer and floor general equated to us winning. That was my first championship team at St. Frances and Dayshawn was adept at incorporating all his teammates and elevating us as a collective.”
Wells continued is basketball journey at Bowie State, where as a junior in 2017, he led the Bulldogs to the CIAA Tournament title and a berth in the Division II NCAA Tournament. By then, he knew that one day he wanted to be a college head coach.
“Dayshawn was always an extension of the coach when he was playing at St. Frances and at Bowie,” Elliott said. “He was heady, steady, played great defense, knew when to push it, when to slow it down and he could splash the deep ball. He was a menace on defense and if one of his teammates got hot, Day Day was going to feed him the ball.”
Days after receiving his bachelor’s degree, he was back in Baltimore coaching the 17-and-under team for NBA player Will Barton’s Team Thrill AAU program. After his second summer coaching AAU ball, Myles asked him what he wanted to do.
“I want to get into college coaching,” Wells told him.
Myles knew just the spot for Wells. He reached out to Radford University head coach Mike Jones. The team had a Baltimore connection in Radford video coordinator and assistant director of basketball operations at the time, Kevin Jones, who got his start as a St. Frances assistant.
Kevin Jones was leaving to take a job as an assistant coach at Morgan State, and Myles recommended that Wells was an excellent candidate for the video coordinator position.
And Wells was surprised when Mike Jones called him and invited him down to Virginia for a job interview, and was subsequently hired.
After Wells’ second season on the Radford staff, Mike Jones was hired to be the head coach at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“I assumed I’d be going with Coach Jones to UNC-Greensboro like all of the other coaches on the staff,” Wells said.
That wasn’t the plan. Jones had been an assistant on Shaka Smart’s staff when VCU made their magical run to the Final Four in 2011. Smart called his friend, mentioning that he needed a bright, dynamic young coach to fill the open video coordinator job at Marquette.
“Shaka called me shortly thereafter and we got it going from there,” Wells said.
The video coordinator gig is demanding and time-consuming. Wells wears a lot of hats: aiding in player development, recruiting, managing video edits and breaking down how the Eagles are executing, along with helping the staff to formulate its offensive and defensive game plans based on what he sees during his scouting of the opposition.
When Marquette, who was picked during a preseason conference poll to finish ninth, won the Big East regular season and tournament titles, Wells couldn’t help but reflect on how he got there, standing atop a ladder and cutting down the nets in Madison Square Garden.
“This is just surreal to me right now,” Wells said. “Four years ago, I was coaching AAU ball and now I’m on the staff of the Big East champions, blessed with the opportunity to apprentice under and learn from one of the greatest coaches in the business. I was a kid in middle school watching that VCU team make that Final Four run. I could never have imagined that one day I’d be on Shaka Smart’s staff.”
Wells’ presence has already paid off outside of the video room, with Baltimore natives Justin Lewis (the Poly product who’s currently on a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls) and Darryl Morsell (the Mt. St. Joe’s product and Maryland transfer who is on a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors) starring for the Golden Eagles last year.
After the NCAA Tournament selection show on Sunday evening, when Marquette found out that they were a No. 2 seed and heading to Columbus, Ohio, Wells was studying video on Vermont and putting his initial scouting report together.
“I started collecting video from their last few games, along with every game that they played against a high-major program earlier in the year,” Wells said. “From there, we started calling people that we know at the other schools in the American East Conference to get a better feel for who they are and what they like to do.”
Monday and Tuesday, the team kept to their normal routine. At practice, they focused on cleaning up some things from their Big East Tournament run, aspects of their execution that the coaching staff wasn’t pleased with, elements that Wells describes as “low hanging fruit.”
“I’m so proud of my son, he’s living out his dream,” said Billy, who works down at the port as a longshoreman. “I tell him all the time, ‘I get up at five o’clock every morning to go to work at the port. You’ve already made it because you’re getting paid to do what you love.’ Ever since he was kid, he was never concerned about stats, attention or accolades. The only thing that boy cared about was winning.”
On Wednesday, the players got their first look at the clips that Wells assembled that broke down Vermont’s action. They then proceeded to walk through the scouting report on the court before a full practice. After hitting the weight room and showering, they grabbed their bags and boarded the bus to the airport.
“I’m really humbled to be where I am right now,” Wells said. “As a little kid, I was in a college gym hanging out with Mike Brey, who unbeknownst to me, had been Coach K’s right-hand man as an assistant coach at Duke for years before getting the Delaware job. He went on to accomplish some great things later as the head coach at Notre Dame for over 20 years. So, I guess my journey into college coaching started way back then.”
“Dayshawn is a fantastic young man,” Myles said. “He’s respectful, intelligent and people gravitate to him because of his innate leadership skills. He’s going to be a future star in the college coaching profession and one of those names down the road that is going to make the city of Baltimore proud.”