“This is my state,” Melo Trimble said in the moments after knocking down a buzzer-beating three-point shot in his final attempt at Xfinity Center to lift Maryland over Michigan State.
He was right.
Trimble won’t bring an NCAA championship back to College Park like so many dreamed after a stellar freshman season. But he’s leaving the program in a much better place than how he found it, a change he undeniably catalyzed himself. This was his team, and he’s leaving it at the right time.
Trimble is forgoing his final year of college eligibility and declaring for the NBA Draft. The decision isn’t all that shocking, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. The Melo Trimble era changed the perception of Maryland basketball.
Trimble wasn’t supposed to be this big of a deal. His step-back jumpers, and-one finishes and signature haircuts demanded he be.
He was an on-campus celebrity. He’s the picture outside of the Stamp Student Union you needed to Instagram so your freshman year could be complete. Your kid brother probably wanted to get the Melo Trimble haircut — you know, the fade with the long top and orangey-blonde tips. The man was a walking brand without trying to be.
I’ll never forget the two toddlers (they couldn’t have been older than four) outside the locker room after a game staring at a picture of the team. “I want to get Melo to sign my shirt,” one said. Sports fan or not, you knew who Trimble was and what he meant if you lived in the DMV.
Maryland Terrapins sports are unique in that they are loved by the entire state. With no other competing Division I program in sight, most of the state’s population is united in one rooting interest. With the football program disappointing year-after-year, basketball runs the state. Trimble, the face of the team for three seasons, owned the state.
Though the quote appears cocky to those who weren’t around him much, it isn’t. That was about as heated as he’d ever get. His quiet and charming demeanor made him all the more likable.
Hitting buzzer-beater after buzzer-beater didn’t hurt either; nor did making every watch list ever made. Tattooing the state flag on his back showed that Maryland meant as much to him as he did to Maryland.
Three NCAA Tournament appearances in three years after missing the postseason for four consecutive seasons; a trip to Sweet 16 for the first time in 13 years; recruiting the program’s first five-star talent in more than decade; countless buzzer-beaters. Melo Trimble did all he could.
Since he won’t see any of the millions he’s made for the university, now it’s time for him to make the money he deserves. His NBA critiques are on his size and athleticism, which wouldn’t have changed if he stayed for his senior year. Maryland could have made the tournament again, but this wasn’t a Final Four roster even with him on it.
He might not hear his name called in June’s draft, but he has to know that. His stock won’t get any higher than it is now. But he’s leaving Maryland in the perfect place to succeed.
Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson are the freshman trio every Big Ten coach wishes they had. Maryland will add at least two more top-100 recruits in guard Darryl Morsell and big man Bruno Fernando next season, with eyes on someone else to fill Trimble’s scholarship. The Terps struggled with depth in Trimble’s first two seasons. Now they have plenty of it.
Though his departure will sting, Trimble’s leaving the program in perfect position to thrive, with a batch of quality talent primed to stay in school for a few years like he did himself.