It’s okay. Not every fun, tantalizing, or hyperbolically praised player needs to be a freshman. Sometimes it is just fine to get silver tongued for a guy like Melo Trimble.
You know, one of those pesky kids who stayed in college for a few seasons.
The Maryland Terrapin guard has helped this season’s team to a 7-0 start. It’s a more than solid start, though it can be said there’s no real reason to #FearTheTurtles since they haven’t exactly walloped college basketball world-beaters… yet.
Trimble’s rise to university-legend status didn’t start in the 2016-’17 season, however. It began as a highly hyped freshman, then as a player who twice declined to declare for the draft, and finally as a guy who has (relatively speaking) altered his game to fit each different version of Maryland he has played on.
Forgoing the NBA Draft might seem like the craziest part. At the time, it really wasn’t all that insane, though. He had decent draft projections, but the now-junior always felt he could improve his stock by coming back for another season.
Oddly, despite improving in areas of his game that scouts likely told him he needed to, Trimble has essentially overstayed his welcome in college basketball — at least to those who partake in mock NBA Drafts. At this point in his collegiate career, after once being considered a late-first to early-second round talent, the guard will be lucky to be drafted at all (DraftExpress has him going 52nd overall, for some context).
It is worth noting that deciding to return to Maryland season after season wasn’t altruistic. We will inevitably spin it in that way to increase the narrative that he valued winning at the university over the money that awaits professionally. That’s mostly fine, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
Trimble’s first two seasons with the Terps went well enough. He averaged over 16 points per game as a freshman, which originally put him on the national radar, then 15 points per game as a sophomore as he tried to be more of a team guy. (Notably, he took more field goal attempts per game in his second year, but don’t let that cloud our pretty picture.)
He also had some serious signature moments along his voyage to becoming a Maryland hero. It wasn’t just his numbers that began to endear him to the hearts, minds, and souls of those rooting for the Terrapins.
All this led into a 2016-’17 season in which Maryland had the least amount of expectations on it since Trimble arrived, but only because his supporting cast went from other potential NBA-level players playing alongside him to being a group that was either dubbed as being too young to win now or not yet talented enough to win.
More plainly: Despite Trimble entering the season as a known commodity, most Maryland players were not. As a result, prognosticators did what we tend to do, which is underestimate the unknown.
Nevertheless, Maryland is winning. Even better, at least for the growing mythology of Trimble, the guard has been the primary reason for it.
Through those seven games, our 6-foot-3, sometimes-hero ball guard has averaged 21.1 points per outing on 47 percent shooting from the floor (a career best), and a decent 34 percent beyond the arc.
Do ignore the fact that his assists and rebounds are both slightly down while his turnovers are over three per game. The context helps explain why those counting-stats are modest.
You see, for the first time in his collegiate career, this is Trimble’s team in earnest. Yes, it was always (mostly) his team before now, but he and Mark Turgeon had other talents to placate. Not now. Trimble is the sole talent worth placating. He has to be the ball-in-hand-heavy guard that is more reminiscent of a prolific small-guard at a low-major who gets mad-buckets than a well-rounded guard in a big-boy league.
Think of Melo as Keifer Sykes, but on totally legal steroids.
I say let’s embrace it, even if only for entertainment purposes. Let’s allow Trimble in all his (now new, or back to old) shoot-first glory. Please refrain from pigeonholing him as a ball-hog, because he is not. Allow the sheer brilliance of him having the confidence of 1,000 J.R. Smiths wash over you like a warm shower.
Things can change for Trimble as the season moves forward. We’re still weeks away from conference play, and there are only a few tough tests awaiting the Terps in the non-conference schedule. For all we know, we will look back at this column in mid-February and have a good giggle together.
Still, I caution us not to worry too much down the road. Instead, let’s enjoy the ride. Rare is the junior who is clearly “the man” on a team in a major conference to the point that he’s carrying it on his back as if it were his literal job. Those are things usually best left for Allen Iverson wannabes in the lowliest of lowly levels of Division I college basketball.
Now, Trimble is not Iverson, nor does he play a lot like him. However, as a guard who is starting to transcend basketball (relative to his status in program history), we’re moving on from the idea of Melo Trimble the potential NBA Draft prospect, as well as from Maryland projected to be as good as prior years. Our friend from Upper Marlboro, Md. has the stage set to become the first true Maryland Terrapins basketball legend since Juan Dixon.
Considering he will only have to help the Terps be competent to do so, while Dixon had to win a title, that’s not too shabby.
Melo Trimble: Maryland Terrapins legend. #FightMe.