Trim­ble re­turn­ing with new out­look

Last sea­son’s trou­bles give him ‘some­thing to prove,’ ju­nior point guard says

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Don Markus

WASHINGTON — Much has changed in the past year for Mary­land point guard Melo Trim­ble. Ayear ago, he was com­ing off a sen­sa­tional fresh­man sea­son and was voted the Big Ten Con­fer­ence’s Pre­sea­son Player of the Year in men’s bas­ket­ball, in ad­di­tion to be­ing on sev­eral pre­sea­son All-Amer­ica teams.

Now, af­ter help­ing the Terps reach the NCAA tour­na­ment’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003 de­spite strug­gling with a ham­string in­jury that contributed to a dras­tic shoot­ing slump, Trim­ble is com­ing back as a ju­nior in a dif­fer­ent role and with a dif­fer­ent mind­set.

The spot­light has dimmed as well. Wis­con­sin se­nior for­ward Nigel Hayes was voted the Big Ten’s Pre­sea­son Player of the Year and was the only unan­i­mous All-Big Ten first-team se­lec­tion. Trim­ble, who fin­ished on the All-Big Ten sec­ond team last sea­son and was a first-team pre­sea­son se­lec­tion this year, still has his doubters.

“I’m here to get bet­ter and also, of course, [have] some­thing to prove,” Trim­ble said Xfin­ity Cen­ter, Col­lege Park Tonight, 8

dur­ing Big Ten me­dia day Thurs­day, held in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal in con­junc­tion with the league’s tour­na­ment’s be­ing held at the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter. “Last year wasn’t the year I wanted to have. Me com­ing back this year, I’m re­ally fo­cused, con­fi­dent about my­self.”

Said Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon: “He doesn’t have to prove any­thing to any­body, ex­cept be the best bas­ket­ball player and team­mate he can for Mary­land. If he does that, ev­ery­thing else will work out.”

Af­ter a lack­lus­ter per­for­mance in the NBA draft com­bine in Chicago, Trim­ble pulled his name out of June’s draft two hours be­fore the dead­line. “It was a big re­lief,” Trim­ble said. See­ing his stock fall from po­ten­tial first-round pick to some­one who might not have been se­lected at all gave Trim­ble a bet­ter idea of what it takes to make it in the pros.

Tur­geon re­called what another former great Mary­land guard said to him about Trim­ble last sea­son.

“Juan Dixon used to tell me all the time, it’s good for a great player to have strug­gles at some point,” Tur­geon said. “Melo had it, which is go­ing to make him a great player.”

North­west­ern ju­nior point guard Bryant McIn­tosh saw a dif­fer­ent Trim­ble last sea­son than he did when they were fresh­men.

“I think he was go­ing through a lit­tle bit of a shoot­ing slump and men­tally it af­fected him. His con­fi­dence kind of wa­vered,” McIn­tosh said. “To­ward the end of the year he sort of picked it up a lit­tle bit. I think that’s the big­gest dif­fer­ence. His fresh­man year, he played so con­fi­dent. I’d like to see him get back to that. That was the best Melo I had seen. He was a tough guy to guard.”

Trim­ble said he was dis­tracted by the NBA chat­ter last sea­son, par­tic­u­larly com­pared with his mostly stress-free fresh­man year.

When the Terps open their sea­son Nov. 11 against Amer­i­can, Trim­ble will lead a Mary­land team with sev­eral new play­ers, in­clud­ing three fresh­men and grad­u­ate trans­fer L.G. Gill, ex­pected to play ma­jor roles.

Af­ter de­fer­ring the lead­er­ship role to then-se­nior star Dez Wells as a fresh­man, and to se­niors Rasheed Su­lai­mon and Robert Carter Jr. last sea­son, Trim­ble knows that this year’s team will go as far as he can take it. Cer­tainly not as fiery as Wells or as emo­tional as Su­lai­mon, Trim­ble said he is get­ting his own mes­sage across.

“Last year, we had a lot of weapons on the team, but this year, I’m the leader. It’s my team,” Trim­ble said. “We’ve just got a group of guys that want to get bet­ter. When you have a group of guys that just want to get bet­ter and re­spect the leader, you’re go­ing to have a good sea­son.”

Trim­ble said that go­ing through NBA try­outs last spring has helped deal with what­ever crit­i­cism he might hear this sea­son.

“You’ve got to be men­tally tough,” he said.

He also con­ceded he was “lazy” about tak­ing care of his body, even af­ter he had some lower back prob­lems as a fresh­man. The ham­string in­jury that oc­curred in early Jan­uary lin­gered for the rest of the sea­son and contributed to his 3-point shoot­ing drop from roughly 41 to 31 per­cent.

“If I take care of my body like I’m sup­posed to, cer­tain things like my ham­string, my back won’t hap­pen,” Trim­ble said.

Trim­ble likes to go back to his fresh­man year, when he put on one mes­mer­iz­ing per­for­mance af­ter another and, with Wells, led Mary­land to the NCAA tour­na­ment for the first time in five years. That seems like a long time ago, now that Trim­ble’s game has been picked apart.

“I’m a con­fi­dent player and I know what I can do, but when peo­ple say things like that, it just gives me more con­fi­dence,” he said. “Chip on my shoul­der — that’s how I’m go­ing to play all year be­cause I feel peo­ple for­got things that we’ve done as a team, that in­cludes me. Not only my­self, but we’ve got some­thing to prove.”

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