A year ago, Melo Trimble was an afterthought in the McDonald’s All American Game at Chicago's United Center. It took a few months, and a few games, for Maryland fans to get really excited about the 6-foot-2 point guard. We all now know what happened after that.
In the same game Wednesday, a few hours after the Terps announced that Trimble would return for his sophomore year in College Park, Diamond Stone did not wait to get Maryland fans excited.
The 6-10, 250-pound center from Milwaukee finished with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting, three rebounds, two blocked shots, one steal and one inadvertent blackening of a referee's eye in helping the East to a 111-91 rout of the West.
Stone, who committed orally Friday, was not the game’s Most Valuable Player. That honor belonged to unsigned forward Cheick Diallo, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Nor was he gushed over in the same way as Ben Simmons, the 6-9, do-everything Australian who is headed to LSU and could be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
What Stone was, and is, according to former Duke star and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams: a legit, old-school big man.” Stone showed an array of moves that included a couple of rim-shaking dunks — one started with his blocking a shot on defense and finishing in transition — as well as a sweeping hook shot and an 18-foot stop-and-pop jumper.
Williams said during the telecast that with the return of Trimble, arrival of Stone and addition of Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., the Terps will be a “real player” for a national championship next year. (Just a couple of years ago, Williams was questioning whether coach Mark Turgeon had the Terps going in the right direction.)
In an in-game interview, Stone said Maryland “was the right place for me,” praising both Turgeon and Trimble, whom he referred to by his full first name, Romelo. During the telecast, Trimble's assurance to Stone that he would return next season was said to be vital to the five-star recruit's pledge to Maryland.
Having seen Stone play in a high school playoff game a few weeks ago in Milwaukee, let me assure Maryland fans that Stone has even more in his offensive repertoire than what he showed Wednesday. That night, he stepped out to hit four of five 3-pointers and make four straight free throws in the closing seconds to secure a four-point win.
In Wednesday's game, Stone never forced anything, even as some of his fellow McDonald’s All Americans did. Based on what I know about how the Maryland coaches plan to team Stone and Carter, they are considered almost interchangeable at power forward and center. Together, I could see Stone as the 4 and Carter as the 5.
As for who plays the 3? For now, that appears to be Jake Layman, though he remains uncertain about whether to enter the NBA draft. If the 6-9 junior forward tuned in Wednesday and saw what Stone did, maybe he envisioned how players such as Stone, Carter and Trimble might open things up for the team's offense next season. I know I did.
It’s enough to get more than a few Maryland fans counting down the days — about 230, give or take a few — until the Terps start playing again.