ORLANDO, Fla. --- — The lead was long gone, the comeback was short-lived and the Maryland men's basketball season was about to end.
As Melo Trimble watched the last of his 15 shots and nine 3-point attempts in Thursday's 76-65 loss to 11th seed Xavier fall short, the junior guard shook his head.
The reality that Trimble's third season as a Terp had ended much like his first two, only earlier with a Round of 64 defeat in the NCAA tournament, had already settled in.
The question about whether there will be a fourth season for a player many expected to leave after his freshman year had already been pondered, and will be until Trimble makes that decision and ultimately announces his intentions.
"I'm just going to let this one rub off and I'll make my thinking process when the time is right once I get back home and just be able to relax for a minute," Trimble said in the team's dressing room after the game.
Here are some things for Trimble to consider as the process begins:
He needs to become a better 3-point shooter to get to the NBA
If his performance in last year's NBA Combine showed that Trimble wasn't ready yet to make the jump from college to the pros, his performance over the last month of his junior year did little to change that perception.
For Trimble to have had any shot of continuing his career in the NBA rather than working on his game in Europe or the D-League, he needed to show scouts that he could shoot 3-pointers with more consistency.
While he did have a brief two-game turnaround last month at Northwestern and Wisconsin when he hit eight of 12 on 3-pointers, he missed 32 of his last 38 over the team's final nine games, including eight of nine against Xavier.
His 3-point performance for the season (58 of 183, 31.7 percent) was reminiscent of last season (58 of 184, 31.5 percent) when he and others pointed to the injured hamstring he played with the second half of the year. This year there was no injury to point to for his poor shooting.
He has a chance to add to his legacy
Even if he were to leave after this season, Trimble's place as the most important player in Mark Turgeon's tenure and one of the most beloved in Maryland history is already secured.
Given where the Terps were before he arrived – a dysfunctional team coming off the second 17-15 season in Turgeon's first three years – Trimble is to Turgeon what Walt Williams was to Gary Williams.
Maryland is 79-25 (75.9 winning percentage) with Trimble as its point guard, a number for the first three years that is comparable to John Lucas (80.4) despite playing with not nearly as talented a supporting cast.
Trimble helped Turgeon attract the three freshmen who played such a big role in the program-best 20-2 start this season and who are the foundation for the Terps continuing their string of consecutive NCAA tournament bids.
On a personal note, Trimble finishes his junior year with 1,658 points, which puts him right behind Walt Williams (1,704) at No. 12 on Maryland's scoring list. If he scores the same number of points next season as he did this season (556), only Juan Dixon (2,269) would have scored more at Maryland.
Next year's team should be the best he has played on in his career
Considering what Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan did as full-time starters this season, it's reasonable to assume that they will be able to do even more as sophomores.
While Trimble's game slumped as a sophomore because of injury and the fact that referees stopped sending Trimble to the line with the same regularity as they did when he was a freshman, his game is different than the others.
Huerter came in with a reputation as a 3-point shooter and finished the season as Maryland's best all-around offensive player, as evidenced by his 19-point, five-assist performance against Xavier, and arguably its best on-the-ball defender.
Despite a late-season slump, Jackson had a good offensive game against Xavier (14 points). Despite a tough night against the Musketeers, Cowan proved to be a good fit playing alongside Trimble.
Given what the Terps lose from this year's team (center Damonte Dodd and forward L.G. Gill), what they have coming in (four-star prospects Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell) and what they have coming back (everybody, plus Joshua Tomaic and Michah Thomas, who essentially redshirted this season), Maryland will be among the favorites to win the Big Ten next season.
What other guards who have stayed four years have done recently
While nobody is expecting Trimble to suddenly turn into former Oklahoma star Buddy Hield, who came back to show scouts he could put the ball on the floor and led the Sooners to the Final Four, he could become Maryland's Yogi Ferrell.
After being a complementary player on a 29-7 Indiana team that won the Big Ten regular season title and reached the Sweet 16 when he was a freshman, Ferrell led the Hoosiers to another Big Ten title and another Sweet 16 as a senior.
Ferrell wasn't drafted last year, and earned a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets when the team released former Maryland star Greivis Vasquez early in the season. After getting released by the Nets, Ferrell signed another 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
In his fourth game with the Mavericks, against the Portland Trail Blazers, Ferrell scored 32 points by making 11 of 17 shots, including nine of 11 on 3-pointers. Before his first 10-day contract had expired, Ferrell signed a two-year deal.
Then there's former Maryland standout John Gilchrist. Like Trimble, he probably should have left early – after leading the Terps to the 2004 ACC tournament title as a sophomore. Instead he left after his junior year and never got a sniff of the NBA.
Trimble should take the next few weeks and make up his mind. No waffling, as he did last season, which led to him trying to keep up his eligibility and impress NBA scouts in individual works.
If he's going to leave, he should try to get himself in the best shape to make a positive impression. But unless he can get some kind of assurance that he's going to be drafted, which seems a long-shot, Trimble should return.
Maryland needs its unquestioned leader to build on this season.
And Trimble probably still needs the Terps to get him where he wants to go.