In December 1982, Mark Wells (No. 10) was a star Chaminade University basketball player.

Drugs dimmed
Chaminade star

Crime and addiction dogged
a member of the historic '82 team

WAILUKU » Georgina "Gigi" Mano said former Chaminade basketball star Mark A. Wells had the ability to charm people and often told her he could sell a comb to bald man.

Wells is shown in in an undated mugshot provided by Maui police.

"But he couldn't talk himself out of this one," said Mano of her boyfriend who was found shot to death on Maui.

Wells, 44, gained national prominence when his Chaminade University team defeated Virginia and its 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson in 1982 in one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history.

But Wells' life after basketball prominence was a slide into substance abuse and petty crimes. It ended with him as a suspect in an alleged sex assault, and the victim of multiple gunshot wounds on a remote north Maui hiking trail.

Wells' body was found 100 yards makai of Kahekili Highway in the Nakalele Point area by a hiker who called police a little after 1 p.m. on New Year's Day, about two days after Wells had been arrested and later released in the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl.

Police Lt. Glenn Cuomo said a man allegedly met the teenager, provided her with alcohol and sexually assaulted her.

Mano, who has been Wells' girlfriend for a year and lived with him in a camp in Lahaina, said she was shocked when she heard yesterday about the alleged sexual assault. "I don't see him capable of it," she said.

Mano said the Wells she knew helped to bring an old man to their camp during recent heavy rains and fed him.

But friends and family said he also fought addiction problems and had been in rehabilitation programs.

Wells grew up in a working class family in Wilmington, Del., the sixth of seven children.

His father, Melvin Wells, a retired steel worker in Wilmington, said yesterday that Mark has a son from a college relationship with a New Zealand woman and a son from a previous marriage to a woman in Houston.

After graduating from Chaminade where he was "Player of the Year" in 1983, Mark Wells unsuccessfully tried out for the Los Angeles Lakers and spent eight years playing professional basketball in Argentina, Brazil and Australia, his father said.

Mark Wells, who was found dead Sunday on a Maui trail, is shown in a Lahaina camp on Dec. 21.

In 1984, when Wells was 24, he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft for shoplifting clothing from a Sears store in Honolulu. At the time of the arrest, court records indicate he was unemployed. He was fined $500 and sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

A letter of recommendation included in court documents written by a former professor at Chaminade indicates that previous to his arrest, Wells had been employed as an undercover security officer for Sears.

Wells' father said his son joined the Army and fought in Desert Storm. He said he's pretty sure his son used drugs, and his problems seemed to become serious after Desert Storm.

"He would work two to three days, then go away," he said.

He said Mark, who was charming and had a knack for finding work, had a good job in Delaware for about six weeks, then disappeared for weeks.

He said the family eventually found out that Mark had admitted himself into a veterans hospital for drug treatment and stayed there for six to eight months.

He said his son later worked on oil rigs off-shore from Houston, making good money, when he left Texas for Maui in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of Chaminade University's historic win over Virginia.

Mark Wells fell in love with Maui and decided to stay, working at a variety of temporary jobs, including selling cars and pieces of driftwood adorned with sea shells that he had collected on the beach in Lahaina, Mano said.

She said he also coached youths at a local basketball court near Mala Wharf in Lahaina. "That was Mark," she said.

Former Chaminade basketball coach Merv Lopes said he saw Wells at the 20th reunion in 2002 and also at Chaminade's annual invitational basketball competition last year.

"For him, he was doing fine, but I heard he was hanging around not-too-good people, so I asked him about that," recalled Lopes who lives on the Big Island. "He said, 'Oh, coach, I'm a survivor. Don't worry about me.'"

Lopes, who recruited Wells after seeing him play on a basketball court in Venice Beach, Calif., said Mark had no fear when he played basketball.

"What can you say? That he was a nice person and yet he didn't do too nice things, that he ended up that way," Lopes said. "He was struggling a bit. He was in rehab. ... He went on the wrong path, wrong associates."

Star-Bulletin reporter Sally Apgar contributed to this report.

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