COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's Melo Trimble could have declared for the NBA after his freshman campaign. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native was averaging more than 16 points per game while shooting an efficient 44-percent from long range. As an NBA general manager, it's hard not to like what the true freshman brought to the table.
But Trimble's mid-game concussion against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament helped bring Maryland's season to an unexpected halt. Trimble returned for his sophomore campaign, both to join one of the best starting rotations in all of college basketball and increase his draft stock. The preseason narrative for 2015-16 was that Trimble would come back for a stellar sophomore campaign, take the Terps as far as he could take them in the NCAA tournament, and then declare early for the draft alongside freshman Diamond Stone. Mock drafts at the beginning of the season had Trimble as high as a fringe-lottery pick, and a consensus first-round selection.
It turns out that pure talent doesn't always exactly correlate to success in college basketball. A talent-loaded starting rotation made it difficult for Trimble to standout like he did in his freshman season. His shooting percentages both inside and outside the arc plummeted, as did his average points per game. If you caught any Maryland game last year, there were stretches when Trimble just didn't look like himself. He forced shots that were't there, and didn't utilize his natural ability to get to the charity stripe.
Where could Melo go from there?
After an up-and-down season, Trimble faced a daunting quandary. He wasn't viewed as the fringe lottery-pick that NBA analysts thought they'd see, but the combo guard possessed enough talent to at least be considered for an NBA roster. His decision to stay for his junior year came down to the wire, but he's embracing the position he's in with a different mentality than last year.
"I don't want to worry about playing at the next level, because that pretty much hurt myself and the team last year," Trimble said during Maryland's media day. "A lot of us were just thinking about the next level too much."
Nobody is giving the Terps or Trimble the same lofty expectations coming into this season, and maybe that's what best for everyone. The former ESPN No.1 preseason team is currently ranked 21st in the most recent USA Today coaches poll, a safe distance away from being entrenched in the national championship conversation while still being relevant.
Trimble is finally the top dog on this team, which fits his skill set perfectly. He's a score-first guard, and Turgeon has surrounded him with players that will accentuate his strengths rather than stifle his natural abilities.
Nobody knows what Trimble's decision will be after the 2016-17 campaign. Assuming he goes through anything of a bounce back season, he'll want to declare for the NBA draft before he's a senior with a lower upside.
"I just want to get better and worry about playing in college. Coach Turgeon said it and he was right. Now I'm more focused on the team."