The dream of playing in the NBA was in Melo Trimble’s head long before he arrived at Maryland three years ago. It’s certainly not a reality yet, though Trimble believes he is much closer to it than he was before.
That’s why Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.
Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.
“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.
“I could have left after my freshman year, I could have left [after] last year. I’m more developed and more prepared now. Of course, I wish we could have won a national championship. I get really jealous watching other teams celebrate, wishing we could be there. Hoping we could win a championship was the only deciding factor to coming back … but I felt this was my time.”
Asked how difficult a decision it was, Trimble said: “It was really tough. It’s been three years, just the best three years of my life. ... Nothing but memorable moments. To see everyone say thank you to me, really means a lot to me. It kind of had me emotional, just thinking about everything I did for the program and everything that went on for the past three years.”
Having grown up in Upper Marlboro and being coach Mark Turgeon’s first five-star recruit (the first for the Terps since Mike Jones in 2003), Trimble said he felt pressure to produce. That pressure might have worn on him at times, and contributed to him not following up his freshman year with more consistency the past two years, especially in his three-point shooting (31.5 percent as a sophomore and 31.7 percent last season).
“I’m from the area and everyone expected me to do so well,” said Trimble, who was named first-team all-Big Ten as a freshman and again this season. “I felt like I had to do well for the state of Maryland. Whenever I played bad, I kind of put it on myself that I needed to do better. I could always play better. But I did put pressure on myself, because I love being here. To lose not only hurt me, I felt I was letting the fans down.”
Trimble will leave Maryland as the most significant player in coach Mark Turgeon’s six-year tenure. After the Terps were a combined 69-43 with only one National Invitation Tournament appearance in Turgeon’s first three seasons, Maryland went 79-25 with three straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the school’s first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2003 in 2016.
“Melo Trimble is a winner and helped change the face of our program,” Turgeon said in a statement. “More importantly, Melo is a special person and I thoroughly enjoyed coaching him. He is extremely humble and always puts the team first. Melo has grown as a leader and has done an outstanding job taking our program to new heights. Melo will be celebrated as one of the all-time greats in our program’s history. We are very excited for Melo as he pursues his dream of playing professional basketball.”
The news of Trimble’s departure did not surprise his teammates.
Freshman guard Kevin Huerter said Wednesday that most players figured Trimble would at least put his name in the draft without signing with an agent to see if his stock had improved from last year. Huerter said Trimble told his teammates Sunday of his decision to leave, once they returned from spring break.
“When he did [declare] we were all really happy for him,” Huerter said.
Trimble finishes his career No. 13 on the school’s scoring list with 1,658 points, right behind Walt Williams. He is only the fourth player in Maryland history to score at least 1,500 points, with 400 assists and 150 steals, joining Williams, Greivis Vasquez, and Johnny Rhodes. Trimble is ranked second in all-time free throws made (503) behind Keith Booth.
While many believed he might have been a late first-round or early second-round draft pick had he left after his freshman year, Trimble is not deterred by the fact that a majority of NBA mock drafts don’t list him at all and haven’t for most of the past year.
“I try not to look at that stuff,” Trimble said. “After I play good, I’m on there; after I play bad I’m not on there. You take the good with the bad. I just try to get better — that’s what I’m focused on during these pre-draft workouts and getting out of here and going to work out and getting better, just getting back to playing with confidence and having fun.”
According to Trimble’s agent, Michael Kneisley of the Neustadt Group, a Rockville-based sports management company specializing in the NBA, Trimble will leave April 10 for Las Vegas. He will work out there with Joe Abunassar, whose Impact Basketball has helped train NBA players for the past 20 years. Among Abunassar’s current clients are All-Star guards Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.
“He’s ready to go on to the next phase of his career. I think he’s one of the best point guards in the country, no question about it,” Kneisley said. “I think he’s going to prove that the next couple of months and we’re focused on the process. We’re going to get to work and we’re going to put all our energy into everything we can control, which is getting him best prepared for the combine and the NBA workouts, and we’ll see what the results are at the end.”
Trimble feels much the same as he did when he arrived at Maryland after being one of the last McDonald’s All-Americans picked during his senior year at Bishop O’Connell High in Northern Virginia.
“Just like when I first got here, no one knew who I was, and then out of nowhere I just blew up, got so much attention so fast and everyone started loving me,” he said. “I’ve been doubted ever since I’ve been playing basketball. I was barely a McDonald’s All-American. I had to fight just to get ranked. … I proved everybody wrong again when I got here. … I showed people I could play on this level and that’s what I can do again.”
Asked how he would like to be remembered by Maryland fans, Trimble said: “Everyone knows me for my hair, my smiling, some of the highlights I made this past year. I just want to be known for the player who played the game and had fun.”
Trimble will be remembered for hitting a number of big shots over his three years, including two game-winners. The first came as a sophomore at Wisconsin and the second was the last shot he took at the Xfinity Center, a 3-pointer to beat Michigan State on senior day with 1.1 seconds to go.
“It couldn’t be better than that,” Trimble said. “I’m just proud the way I went out.”