The last image Maryland fans had of Melo Trimble was of the freshman point guard sitting visibly distraught near the end of the team’s bench at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. He had just suffered what was diagnosed as a concussion in the second half of a season-ending loss to West Virginia in the NCAA tournament.
Fortunately for the Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, his Terps and their fans, it won’t be a lasting image.
Turgeon announced Wednesday that Trimble, who helped lead the Terps back to national relevance this season, will return for his sophomore year. The decision by Trimble comes five days after 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Diamond Stone, a five-star recruit, committed to play for Maryland.
Turgeon said he wasn’t surprised by Trimble’s decision based on a conversation they had shortly after the team returned to College Park.
“Melo’s kind of a man of his word, he always has been,” Turgeon said. “Right after the season ended, he said he wanted to come back. I said, ‘Let’s don’t rush it, let’s explore it.’ So we did. I kind of knew down deep that this is what Melo wanted.
“Some kids just want to continue to be kids in college and that is more or less what he wanted.”
“I am excited about spending another year with my teammates and building on what we accomplished this year,” Trimble said in a statement released by the athletic department. “I want to thank Coach Turgeon for helping my mom and I through this process. This was the best decision for me. Being a member of the Maryland basketball program has been an unbelievable experience and I can’t wait to be back in front of the best fans in college basketball next season.”
Trimble was named first-team all-Big Ten Conference by the media and first-team all-freshman by CBS Sports and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association after leading the Terps in scoring (16.2 points per game) and assists (3.0). Picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the league, the 28-7 Terps came in second behind Wisconsin and set a school record for regular season wins (26).
“No doubt Melo changed our program this year,” said Turgeon, who was named Big Ten coach of the year by the media. “He’ll continue to grow as a player. It’s great that he’s staying. It’s great for Maryland and it’s great for him. He’s a key piece, no doubt about it.”
Kim Trimble, Melo’s mother, said in an interview that her son’s decision wasn’t difficult.
“He told me it was easy,” Kim Trimble said. “I called him one day [last week] and he told me the same thing he told Coach Turgeon.”
Kim Trimble said the way the season ended didn’t impact her son’s decision, though the dazed look in his eyes after taking repeated blows during the West Virginia game “was a little scary.”
Trimble hit the court after driving to the basket a couple of times in the first half, then took an elbow to the head on what appeared to be a hard screen that knocked him out the game five minutes into the second half. After returning a few minutes later, Trimble was inadvertently kicked in the head by teammate Damonte Dodd after falling.
It was after the last incident that the Maryland training staff kept Trimble on the bench for the remainder of the game.
“When they did the test after they pulled him out, he didn’t know where he was,” Kim Trimble said. “When we got back to the hotel and I was talking to him, his head was hurting really bad. The first few nights he wasn’t getting any sleep, but after Wednesday he felt much better.”
Trimble’s decision to return also came a few days after it was disclosed that both he and junior forward Jake Layman were “going through the process” of exploring their NBA draft potential this year. Layman has until April 26 to put his name in for early eligibility or announce that he, too, will return.
“I’m doing some [work getting evaluations], his parents are doing a lot, a lot of people are helping us with Jake on his decision,” Turgeon said “We’re just kind of getting started with the process.”
Trimble told The Washington Post on Saturday that he planned to leave Maryland this year only if he was guaranteed to be a lottery pick in June’s draft. A couple of unofficial mock drafts had Trimble as a late first-round draft pick.
“I had him as a first round pick, but not as a lottery [top 14] pick,” one NBA executive said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday.
Layman, too, has received mention in some mock drafts as a late first-round draft choice after being selected third-team all-Big Ten by the media this season, though two NBA scouts and one NBA general manager said this week that the 6-9, 205-pound forward is more likely a second-round pick.
With or without Layman, Trimble returns to a team that will add three important pieces — a pair of big men and another point guard.
Along with Stone, who is rated the No. 2 high school center in the country and one of the top seven players overall, the starting frontcourt is expected to include Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., a 6-9, 240-pound forward who was impressive in practice this season.
Junior college point guard Jaylen Brantley, a former four-star recruit, will help give Maryland depth at that position.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said in an interview Wednesday that returning to college is a “great decision” for Trimble and the Terps.
“He needs to improve his decision-making, his perimeter shooting, his consistency, his individual defense both on and off the ball,” Bilas said. “There’s no way that anyone at his age doesn’t have a lot to work on and improve on. You’d say the same thing if he was a senior, they just don’t have a choice to come back.”