Maryland seniors Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill will be playing the final game(s) of their college careers during the NCAA tournament, where the sixth-seeded Terps take on No. 11 seed Xavier in the NCAA first full round here today at the Amway Center.
Junior guard Melo Trimble might be, too, depending on if he decides to leave College Park and try to forge a professional career. Regardless of what Trimble does next month, what he does against the Musketeers could determine whether Maryland keeps playing.
It has been a successful season, regardless of the way the Terps (24-8) have slipped since their 20-2 start, the best in program history.
Trying to get to the Round of 32 for the third straight year under coach Mark Turgeon and the 15th time in as many tournament appearances dating back to a first-round loss to the College of Charleston in Memphis 20 years ago, Maryland wants to keep the careers of their two seniors and their star going.
“Of course, and especially since it seems how long we’ve been together,” freshman Kevin Huerter said. “Going back to the beginning of the summer for me and all these guys, obviously Melo and Damonte have been playing together for three years. Personally, you hate to see them go, so you want to play as long as they can and make some sort of run.”
Said Turgeon, “You always want to keep your season going; you want to coach guys as long as you can possibly coach them. You want to coach this team as long as you can possibly coach them. Every team is different, and we’ve really enjoyed coaching this team. The seniors have had a good week, and hopefully they play well.”
Dodd will have to play better against Xavier than he did in Friday’s loss to Northwestern for the Terps to advance. After dunking the game’s first basket on a pick-and-roll feed from Trimble, the 6-foot-11 center finished with just four points and two rebounds in 18 minutes.
“It’s in the back of your mind, yeah, this is your last go-around,” Dodd said Wednesday. “You want to just leave it all out on the floor, but at the same time, I feel me and L.G. can play basketball after this level. Of course you’re going to miss the college. It’s been a great four years.”
Trimble will have to shoot and take care of the ball better than he did against Northwestern to help push Maryland into Saturday's Round of 32. Despite leading the Terps with 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting, Trimble had six of his team’s 14 turnovers and missed all four of his 3-pointers.
“For L.G. and Damonte, it’s their last tournament; 40 minutes is only promised,” Trimble said. “It means a lot, so I just want to go all out for the seniors and play as hard as I can, and hopefully make it more than 40 minutes."
As for whether this will be Trimble’s final college game, a player who has been a star nearly from the day he showed up at Maryland is not divulging any plans on whether his mind is made up. Unlike last season, when the decision about turning pro seemed to affect Trimble’s play, he said he is focused only on the next opponent.
“I’m really confident about this tournament, things we had to overcome this year, everyone doubting us, and it gives us a lot of confidence,” Trimble said. “We had a really good week of practice, so I don’t even think about that stuff. I just think about Xavier and take it one game at a time.”
As for Gill, he played a part in Maryland turning a 28-20 first-half deficit to Northwestern into a 36-34 lead. He hit a short turnaround jumper at the halftime horn to put the Terps ahead. The 6-8, 230-pound forward, who joined the Terps as a graduate transfer after three years at Duquesne, had four points, two rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes.
Gill understands the urgency of Thursday’s game.
“I definitely want to keep winning, so my season will continue to go on. I want to keep playing as long as I can,” Gill said Wednesday. “This tournament means a lot to me, since I’ve obviously never been to the NCAA tournament. So the more we win, the happier I’ll continue to play and the more I get to play.”
Dodd is cognizant of the fact that this could be Trimble’s final game.
“Melo is a great player. For him, in his mind, and the people returning next year, make this as memorable as possible,” Dodd said. “He’ll have things to look forward to, but like I’ve said, you never know what he’s going to do. It’s his decision and it’s up to him to make it as memorable as possible.”