There was no buzz surrounding Damonte Dodd coming out of Queen Anne's County High School on the Eastern Shore.
The 6-foot-9 center was viewed as a long-term project when he signed with Maryland. Some even questioned Mark Turgeon for taking Dodd in the first place, considering that he had both Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell coming in at the same time.
There was little buzz about Dodd last winter, except among those who saw him play at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va. Dodd averaged 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots on a team stacked with more highly-touted Division I prospects.
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“He had an unbelievable year for us,” former Massanutten coach Chad Myers told The Baltimore Sun's Matt Bracken after the season.
Myers then made an interesting prediction that some thought was strictly hyperbole at the time.
“I think he’s going to help Maryland right away, to be honest,” Myers said. “He can really guard, [and] he runs the floor extremely well. His offensive game came along and will continue [to get better]. I think what [Maryland saw of Dodd in high school] excited them, and he definitely made great strides with us. He’s going to be really good in the future.”
Dodd’s former coach is looking pretty smart in his assessment. After what Turgeon and a couple assistants said was an impressive preseason, Dodd showed in Maryland’s 84-39 exhibition win over Division III Catholic on Sunday that he will likely find a place in the team’s regular rotation this season.
Though the debut came against a team without a player on the floor taller than 6-7, Dodd was impressive in finishing with eight rebounds, four points and two blocked shots in 11 minutes. Each of his baskets (on the only two shots he took) and blocks, as well as four rebounds, came in the four minutes Dodd played in the first half.
“I can’t tell you how far that kid’s come since our first practice this summer,” Turgeon said after the game. “He just comes and he works. He’s a great kid. He’s got no ego. Those are fun to coach. He’s still got a lot to learn. He forgets things when he’s out there. He forgets assignments defensively and offensively, but he’s so much further along from where he was a month ago or even this summer.”
What was impressive about Dodd was how under control he seemed to play for someone who, according to junior guard Dez Wells, often “goes a thousand miles an hour.”
About the only obvious mistake Dodd made came when he fumbled a crisp pass from Wells under the basket.
The ball went out of bounds, off a Catholic player. Unsure of the outcome on the play, Wells joked later, “Was that one of my turnovers? I’m going to have some words with him if that was one of my turnovers.”
Even if Wells had been upset, it probably would not have fazed Dodd.
“He’s the kind of person that no matter what tone of voice you talk to him in, how hard you come at him as far as your words, he’s going to respond the same way. He’s going to play hard,” Wells said.
For now, Dodd will play behind Cleare, who was not nearly as productive (three rebounds, two points, one blocked shot in 20 minutes) and Mitchell, who had 11 rebounds and 10 points in 19 minutes and could find his way into the starting lineup Friday night in the regular season opener against Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“He brings us energy,” Turgeon said of Dodd. “When you play 35, 38 games, whatever we’re going to play this year, we’re going to come out flat a few times, and he’ll bring that energy. It was a great first game for him.”
Wells thinks Dodd can show he even more than he did Sunday.
“I feel he can be more of an offensive threat once he starts to come into his own as a college player,” Wells said. “He did really good as far as blocking shots and running the floor, finishing around the basket, rebounding, he’ll do a lot more. He’ll be a really big key to our team.”
The buzz about Dodd is just beginning.