COLLEGE PARK — As a point guard at North Carolina playing under the legendary Dean Smith, King Rice was known for his defense and leadership, helping the Tar Heels reach the Final Four when he was a senior in 1991.
As a fourth-year head coach at Monmouth, Rice can still appreciate when he sees a good young point guard, as he did Friday night when his Hawks would have upset Maryland had it not been for freshman Melo Trimble.
"Melo Trimble's awesome, I watched him when he was a kid, he's a big-time player and he got them through," Rice said after Trimble scored 24 points, including 13 of 14 from the free throw line, in a 61-56 win for the Terps.
"For a kid to be that young, and I've said to some reporters that the kid at West Virginia [Juwan Staten] he's a senior, he knew how to calm their team down. I said, 'If he was a sophomore we might have beat them.'"
Trimble is already doing the same thing six games into his career at Maryland.
"What he does, he calms them down," Rice said of Trimble, who also had five rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. "And then he makes the plays, he makes the free throws, and he's a freshman.
"He's way, way, way better than I could have ever thought about being because he can shoot way better than I ever could and the way he's running this team this year is incredible."
Asked if he was surprised at how calm Trimble was at the free throw line, where he made the eight straight in the final 45 seconds, Rice said, "Tonight I wish he wasn't."
Rice said he watched Trimble play "50 to 60 games" while recruiting other players on the same D.C. Assault AAU team during the summer prior to his senior year at Bishop O'Connell High School in Northern Virginia.
"I thought he was very good then," Rice said. "When I turned the tape on for the first time to watch them this year, I said, 'Man his body's changed.' So that tells me he's serious about it.