Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Dez Wells have earned most of the attention for the resurgent Maryland basketball program's recent run. Trimble is a precocious, program-changing guard, while Layman has leapt into a starring role and Wells has authored the season's most thrilling moment. It's all true, and it's also true that Maryland has no player more indispensable than Trimble. But Maryland's next least replaceable player isn't who you'd probably think.
Damonte Dodd, the sophomore center who was a virtual zero for most of last season, has emerged as an end-to-end stud, and he's changed everything for Mark Turgeon's team. He's Maryland's most efficient offensive player – seriously, albeit in a small sample size – and the best rim-protector Turgeon has ever coached in College Park. Layman has turned from an inconsistent contributor into a star, but Dodd's gotten to the same place after offering practically nothing as a freshman. His transformation has been swift, critical and remarkable.
Via Ken Pomeroy, as a freshman, Dodd had a 70.3 ORtg, by far the worst rating of any regular rotation player on the roster. This season, Dodd's rating is a team-best 122.8 – where a 110 ORtg is considered really good, and anything near 120 is superb. This doesn't mean Dodd is Maryland's best offensive player – of course he isn't – but it means he's getting more out of his used possessions than anybody else. He's gotten to this point by getting significantly better at, well, everything.
The freshman Dodd wasn't all that involved offensively, which was a good thing. Dodd's eFG% was a cover-your-eyes 36.8 percent, bad for any player but especially so for a player who took nearly all of his shots near the basket. His actual field goal percentage was the same, as Dodd didn't and still doesn't shoot any three-pointers. Dodd's true shooting percentage, which factors in foul shots, was a hideous 30.1 percent, as Dodd made just two of his 16 free throw attempts over the course of the season.
Now, as a sophomore, Dodd's eFG% and field goal percentage have risen to 63.4, meaning he's making shots from the floor at a rate almost double what he posted as a freshman. With free throws factored in, Dodd's TS% is now 65.7 percent, more than twice what it was last season. It hasn't hurt that Dodd is 25-for-37 from the foul line, a 68 percent rate. For a 6-foot-11 center in college, that's just fine. Dodd doesn't shoot a ton, taking just 12.2 percent of Maryland's shots while he's on the floor, up from 8 percent a year ago. But when Dodd shoots, he scores.
Dodd has also been a rebounding menace. His 14 percent offensive rebounding rate is 56th-best in the nation, while his 18 percent defensive rate places him in the top 400. He's the third-best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten this season and the 20th-best defensive rebounder. On a team that plays with three guards at least half the time during most games, Dodd's stoutness on the glass is pivotal. He's the biggest singular reason Maryland looks like an above-average rebounding team despite personnel that suggests it shouldn't be.
For good measure, Dodd's block rate is the 26th-best mark in the country and fourth-best in the Big Ten. Dodd blocks 11.3 percent of opposing shots while he's on the floor. That's huge not only for the shots Dodd swats away, but for the ones he scares opposing players away from taking. That metric is consistent with the eye test on Dodd, which paints him as a dominant interior defender. More, he has a 10.8 percent on-court assist rate, up from 1.1 percent as a freshman.
So, Dodd's been wildly efficient on both the offensive and defensive end of the court. He averages 5 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist per game – nothing all that interesting, until you realize he's only played 43 percent of Maryland's total minutes this season. Most of Dodd's gains have been in rate stats, which only show what he's done with the minutes he's been given. His raw numbers are lower, even though they, too, are far better than before. As Dodd entrenches himself further, he'll get more minutes. If his underlying performance doesn't fall off, he could be in line for some big numbers.
Recent trends suggest it won't. Dodd has emerged recently, posting five of the most efficient games of his career since Dec. 6. He has fouled out in each of his last two starts, but he has established himself as Maryland's best big man.
In Maryland's five biggest wins this season – against Arizona State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Michigan State and Minnesota – Dodd has played a vital role. Whatever success the Terrapins have going forward, expect Dodd to maintain a major, if relatively unheralded, part in it.