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Top recruit Melo Trimble gives Maryland new talent, and questions, at point guard

McDonald's All-American, who arrives for workouts this week, expected to start as freshman

By Don Markus

The Baltimore Sun

5:47 PM EDT, June 1, 2014

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Bishop O'Connell (Va.) boys basketball coach Joe Wootten had a simple message for his senior point guard after the Knights lost back-to-back games to league rivals DeMatha and St. John's (D.C.) in mid-February.

With opponents focused on stopping Melo Trimble after he scored a school-record 47 points two days before losing to DeMatha, Wootten told the Maryland signee to start involving his teammates more in their offense.

"Teams would just collapse in the paint on him when he drove, and we said to him, 'Melo, you've got to learn when to dump it off,' " Wootten recalled Wednesday. "His ability to make that read when to dump it off and when not to — he's perfected that."

Not that Trimble stopped scoring, but he tried to heed his coach's advice as he continued a transformation from shooting guard to point guard that had begun the year before.

It is a transition Trimble hopes to complete as a freshman in College Park.

The signs are encouraging. On the day Trimble finished his high school career with a school-record 2,400 career points, he had 35 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists against St. John's in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament at Frostburg State.

"The assists were to everybody," Wootten said. "He's struck that balance. He's a very easy kid to coach."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon expects just that as Trimble and five other newcomers — four fellow freshmen and transfer Richaud Pack, a graduate student and shooting guard who averaged 17 points a game last season at North Carolina A&T — take part in their first summer workouts this week for a team coming off a disappointing 17-15 season.

Trimble is well aware of the turmoil that followed the season, with the departure of five players who had eligibility remaining. The transfers of guards Seth Allen (Virginia Tech) and Roddy Peters (South Florida) leave the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Trimble as the team's only point guard on scholarship.

"At first, it was Seth and Roddy, and I was the next player coming in and I was going to have battle for the [starting] spot," Trimble said Friday. "Now that they're transferring, I don't have to battle for my spot, but I don't have the mindset that I know I'm going to start. I want to force Coach Turgeon to start me with my hard work."

Turgeon acknowledged that Trimble's situation changed when Allen, the incumbent starter at point guard, announced that he would transfer.

"He knew he was going to play in the past, but he knows he's really the only true point guard on the roster," Turgeon said Thursday. "I don't think it will change his approach to how hard he works or how disciplined he'll be and all that kind of stuff, but if you're an incoming freshman, that's what you want. But he's mature enough, he's ready for it."

Maryland's first McDonald's All-American since guard Mike Jones in 2003, Trimble is expected to become the first freshman to start a season opener at point guard since Eric Hayes in 2006. Trimble would be the seventh player to start at the point since Turgeon took over in 2011.

Turgeon seems supremely confident that Trimble is ready to assume the most important role on the team as it enters its inaugural season in the Big Ten Conference.

"You either have a feel for the game or you don't, and I just think that Melo has a great feel for the game," said Turgeon, who started 18 games as a freshman at Kansas. "He knows when he's open, he knows when he's guarded, he knows when his team needs a basket, he knows when he has to get other people involved."

The biggest question following Trimble to college is whether he can be a facilitator for an offense in dire need of a passer. The Terps finished 11th in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season in assists per game (11.7) and 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio (.092).

"Everybody asks, 'Is he a point guard? Is he a 2 [a shooting guard]?' He's a basketball player," Turgeon said. "He's great in ball screens, which is what our game is now. He's great on the break. I watched him this year with his [high school] team, and he was double-teamed, triple-teamed. He was constantly making guys around him better."

Said Trimble, rated the 29th-best recruit in the country by ESPN and the seventh-best shooting guard prospect: "I just play basketball. Whatever happens during the course of the game, I'm not going to say, 'I'm going to get my teammates involved first, then I'm going to try to get my points.' I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. I know what it takes to be a point guard. Turgeon recruited me to be a point guard, so I'm going to do what I'm asked."

Marcus Helton, who covered Trimble for DMVElite.com and served as media director for the Capital Classic all-star game, in which Trimble played, said his potential to be an elite college point guard is still up for debate, given the role he played at Bishop O'Connell.

"He's played the point in small bursts here and there. They needed him to score, and that's something he has done his whole career," Helton said. "People have seen it [being a passer] in glimpses and know it's there, and Melo is a real unselfish kid. I don't think he'll have any problems setting other guys up before he gets his own shots."

Highlights of Trimble show a player with a fluid shooting stroke, an ability to navigate the lane and drive to the basket more so with upper-body strength than off-the-charts athleticism. One thing that stands out is Trimble's old-school approach: He never dunks on breakaways.

"He's not the most athletic guy, he's not going to put his elbow on the rim or anything like that, but he knows how to play," Turgeon said. "You can't teach that. He's got it."

Trimble said he grew up with Maryland as his "dream school," and closely followed Terps legend Juan Dixon when he played with the Washington Wizards.

"I even got my jersey signed by Juan Dixon when I was a little kid; he probably doesn't remember," Trimble said of Maryland's all-time leading scorer and current special assistant to Turgeon. "I think he will be able to give me pointers about what it takes to win and to be a champion. Him being there is a blessing."

Trimble said he gets his confidence from his father, Aaron, and his levelheaded approach from his mother, Kimberly. Wootten said that on the court, Trimble is a mix of his parents, but that his mother's personality often takes over.

"He's got a unique combination of being humble and also being very confident," Wootten said. "He's humble in that knows he needs to get better. He's got a constant drive to get better, and then he's got a confidence that he knows he can play with anybody. … He's going to come in there and blend right in."

Trimble knows that shooting guard and rising senior Dez Wells likely will be Maryland's first scoring option and that small forward Jake Layman, a rising junior, is probably next. But he also knows that most Maryland fans will be focused on how he adjusts at the point.

"I don't feel too much pressure," Trimble said. "I haven't even gotten there yet. I just want to go in and make a name for myself and start all over, like in high school. It's going to be a long summer. I've got to go in, lose weight, adjust to playing at the next level. I just want to have a level head and just stay humble."

don.markus@baltsun.com