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Introducing Maryland's Incoming 2012 Freshmen: Damonte Dodd

Eastern Shore stand up? Image via <a href="">247</a>
Eastern Shore stand up? Image via 247

Mark Turgeon's first class was a monster, a six-man behemoth that is arguably Maryland's most promising in the last decade. But if you don't follow recruiting, the six will-be-freshmen aren't much more than names. Over the next several days, we'll be overviewing the class, recruit by recruit, introducing the newest batch of Terrapins to their future fanbase. We've already looked at Bahamian big Shaq Cleare, lanky wing Jake Layman, good-natured Georgia forward Charles Mitchell, explosive scorer Sam Cassell Jr., and under-the-radar guard Seth Allen. Today's focus is on sleeper big man Damonte Dodd.

Name: Damonte Dodd
Height: 6-9
Weight: 240
HS: Queen Anne's
From: Centreville, Md.
AAU: D.C. Assault
Position: PF
Rankings: 247: UNR | ESPN: UNR | Rivals: | Scout: UNR
Committed: Feb. 21, 2012
Recruiter: Scott Spinelli
Twitter: @umd35faded

Major Strengths: Dodd's all about potential right now. He was a bit of a late-bloomer, but he's turned into a physical specimen in almost every regard: he has plenty of height at a legit 6-9, a good frame at already 240 pounds, and is athletic to boot. I wouldn't call him a jumping jack or too explosive right now, but he can run the floor well and gets good elevation. If you were going to build the perfect power forward, you'd probably give him more or less the exact physique Dodd has now. His physical tools give him the potential to be a big influence on defense and on the boards, and his body won't let him down on offense if he can develop the skills. He seems to generally understand that his place is primarily in the paint, which is a good sign when so many post players don't actually operate in the post. He's obviously unproven (which we'll get to in a second) but the flip-side of that is that he has a lot of room to grow. We've already seen some of that, as he's been improving at a rapid pace as he's been exposed to elite competition via AAU games through D.C. Assault. By all accounts he's a hard worker and a good teammate, which is an absolute must for a long-term project.
Needs Improvement: Well, there are obvious concerns about the level of competition; the Eastern Shore isn't known as a basketball powerhouse, and he didn't really play much AAU last year, only joining DCA after committing to Maryland. He's also a late-bloomer, and carries many of those characteristics: he still looks a bit uncoordinated, like he hasn't gotten used to his size just yet, and is lacking a bit in skill level. All of that combined will make the leap to the college game difficult, and it's why he's largely considering alternative options for next year. It may be some time before he can consistently impact the game at the ACC level. He'll need to develop a traditional low-post game, preferably a little mid-range as well, and he'll need to work on defensive fundamentals and some of the finer points of the game. All of this is to be expected with a long-term project, but there's work to be done.
Interesting Storyline: What does he do in the immediate? It looks like he hasn't signed his LOI yet, but that doesn't mean he can't play next year. With James Padgett, Alex Len, Shaquille Cleare, and Charles Mitchell all ahead of him it's unlikely he'll be able to get enough minutes to make burning his redshirt worth it, especially when there's so much work to be done. If he's on campus, you'd expect him to be redshirted. Alternatively, going to an elite prep school like Notre Dame or Brewster would expose him to elite competition on a regular basis, and getting a bunch of competitive games may be more of a help to his development than practicing against Cleare and Len. Hopefully we'll have an answer on this by the summer. (Also: his nickname is Doddzilla. Tell me that isn't awesome.)
Comparison: Dodd famously compared himself to Kevin Durant, but in truth he doesn't possess many similarities to Durantula. Instead, he should be shooting for Thomas Robinson or Drew Gordon. He's playing catch-up offensively, but his frame and athleticism made me think instantly of Robinson. There are much worse things in this world than being a poor man's Robinson, impacting the game in a major way through energetic play, rebounding, and defense.
Prediction: Psh, who knows? Dodd is a blank slate. He could become an All-American. He could become a sixth man. Let's just go along for the ride and see what happens.
In a Turtleshell: Turgeon took Dodd on as a project, and you can see the potential just in the physical tools. Again, he has plenty to work on. He needs to get acclimated to the pace and physicality of the college game. He needs to develop some go-to moves in the low post, hopefully develop a bit of a jumper, and become a more sound defender. It's a big hill to climb, and it will not happen overnight. But Dodd has the tools to do it, and if he gets to the top of it, he can be a difference-maker, especially on defense and on the glass.

Links: 247 | ESPN | Rivals | Scout | Star-Democrat interview after committing | WaPo feature