ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla has spent a lot of time in the past month observing Maryland point guard Melo Trimble, first when they were together at Stephen Curry’s summer camp in California and now at the Pan American Games in Canada.
Fraschilla, a former college coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico, said that both experiences will help Trimble make the transition from his quick rise to stardom as a freshman last season to becoming more of a leader and a better all-around player as a sophomore.
“He’s playing against tough, physical guards, which is only going to help him,” Fraschilla said in an interview Thursday. “It’s like playing in a pickup game with a 20-pound weight jacket. The minute he gets back to campus and starts playing players his own age, playing against older, physical FIBA guards is going to be a huge benefit to him.
“A guy like Gregory Vargas of Venezuela, who nobody’s ever heard of, is a tough, hard-nosed FIBA who would be a college All-American if he was 20 years old. The next night he’s going up among another, J.J. Barea, who has had a nice career in the NBA."
Understandably, Trimble has not looked like the cool and confident player who took over many games as a freshman, including a couple of big ones in the Big Ten Conference. Through two games, Trimble is averaging five points in about 17 minutes a game, and has shot just 3 of 11 from the field.
Trimble had a rough start in the U.S. team’s first game against Venezuela Tuesday, then played better in the second half. He started well against Puerto Rico Wednesday – stepping into his first 3-pointer and nailing it – but still had moments later on when he looked like the youngest player on the floor.
“He plays the game at a nice pace,” Fraschilla said. “Great guards see the game at slow motion and don’t rush. Young guards tend to run people over. Melo, because he can get to the basket and he has that terrific pullup game, he has weapons.”
Fraschilla, who worked at Curry camp in his role as the director of summer basketball for Under Armour and is working for ESPN in its telecasts of the Pan Am Games from Toronto, called Trimble’s experience in both places “a great summer laboratory for Melo…It’s really an ideal summer for a kid who’s already put himself on the college basketball map.”
According to Fraschilla, two areas in which Trimble needs to improve his game are his passing and his talking.
“One of the things that Mark is going to be pleased [about] and I think the Steph Curry camp set it up first. … Melo going into his sophomore year, Mark was looking for a way to realize that you can be quiet and humble, but we’re going to need you to at times be a little more vocal and lead your teammates,” Fraschilla said.
“I think Steph talked to him about it and watching guys like Damien Wilkins and Bobby Brown operate at 30-something years old and just how they handle themselves and go about their business, I think this will have an enormous positive effect on Melo.”
Trimble did a better job on Wednesday finding open teammates, finishing with four assists but also three turnovers.
“He’s learning that against this level of competition, you have to be very sure with the ball, your passes have to be on time and on target,” Fraschilla said. “That is an adjustment that he is finding out a little bit."
Fraschilla said that Trimble has raised the bar exponentially from the start of his freshman year when it comes to expectations.
“Can he run a team and be trusted to get them to the Final Four?,” Fraschilla asked. “That’s not to say he can’t do it, but it’s a big burden this year compared to coming on the scene last year and maybe taking people a little bit by surprise. I was certainly surprised at how good he was last year.
“To do the things he did as a freshman in the Big Ten was extremely impressive. Now the next step for Melo, can he transform his game a little bit to involve more talented teammates and still be the aggressive scorer that he still can be and he needs to be? There’s a balance there that I think is a work in progress.”