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Melo Trimble's start among best in Terps freshman history

Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus previews Maryland's men's basketball game against Virginia and the key players to watch Wednesday night. (Kevin Richardson/BSMG)

COLLEGE PARK — There are only a handful of Maryland freshmen in modern history who have started their careers as impressively as point guard Melo Trimble

For those whose memories go back about 20 years, the only one who comes to mind is Joe Smith in 1993-94. Smith still holds the school record of 33 points for a freshman, two more than Trimble scored against Arizona State last week on just 11 shots from the field.

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It might be only a matter of time that Trimble, whose 31-point performance was two points better than Adrian Branch's 29 against Virginia, overtakes Smith as well for a one-game record.

Though the hype that accompanied Trimble out of high school was more similar to Branch's arrival from DeMatha in 1981-82 than Smith's – former Dunbar star Keith Booth was considered the top recruit – Trimble's low-key personality is reminiscent of Smith's.

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What Trimble did last week was pretty special. He became the first player since Ohio State's Jared Sullinger in 2010-11 to be named freshman of the week and co-player of the week in the same week.

Asked about what kind of test Virginia's "pack line" defense will be for Trimble, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said, "He'll be tested. They have length in that position.

"He's been able to get to the basket some, it's hard to get to the basket against Virginia. He's a pretty good shooter, too. It's a tough matchup for them and they understand that. Melo will figure it out as the game goes on."

Trimble said that he has been "thinking about" Virginia since the win last week over No. 13 Iowa State.

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If that's the case, it's fair to say he didn't exactly look distracted against either Monmouth, when he made eight straight free throws in the last 45 seconds to help the Terps survive, or against VMI, when he hit all six shots he took from the field. He scored 24 and 19 in the two games, respectively.

Asked if he will have to change his game against the Cavaliers, Trimble said, "No, just me playing my game, let the game come to me and not trying to do too much."

To this point in the season, Trimble has outperformed just about every highly-recruited freshman point guard in the country both in terms of individual statistics and importance to his team.

Trimble's 16.6 points a game are just outside the top 10 in the Big Ten – tied for 11th with Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. Only one other point guard is averaging more, Indiana junior Yogi Ferrell (18.2).

On a national basis, no freshman guard who was a Top 100 recruit is close to Trimble in terms of scoring. Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance is averaging a little over 11 points a game. Southern Cal's Jordan McLaughlin is averaging 11.

Some of it has to do with opportunity.

As of Monday, Trimble's team-high 207 minutes are more than the Duke's Tyus Jones (155 minutes in six game), Kentucky's Tyler Ulis (131 in seven games) and a lot more than North Carolina's Joel Berry (55 minutes in six games).

Of course, Jones is playing behind Quinn Cook, Ulis behind Andrew Harrison and Berry behind both Marcus Paige and Nate Britt.

Yet there are those who were more highly rated than Trimble – who was the sixth-best shooting guard according to ESPN coming out of Bishop O'Connell in Northern Virginia – who are getting a chance and not doing close to what Trimble has done.

Going into Tuesday's game against Michigan, Syracuse freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph had played 10 fewer minutes and had scored less than half as many (51) as Trimble.

If there's one area in which Trimble needs improvement, it's his assist-to-turnover ratio. Right now it's 17-20, compared to Jones' ridiculous 37-7, Ulis' respectable 21-9 and McLaughlin's high-risk, high-reward 37-20.

In the last couple of minutes of the game between Syracuse and Michigan, Joseph had a crucial turnover and airballed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of a two-point loss.

Trimble might do that at some point this season.

And then again, he might not.

Trimble could be to this generation of Maryland fans what Joe Smith was a couple of decades ago.

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