Dodd grows up and aims to step up

Se­nior ea­ger to bring lead­er­ship to Terps amid in­flux of new faces

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — The first time Mary­land men’s bas­ket­ball coach Mark Tur­geon saw Da­monte Dodd work out was also nearly the last.

It came dur­ing Tur­geon’s first sea­son af­ter suc­ceed­ing fu­ture Hall of Famer Gary Wil­liams, and the new coach needed play­ers, es­pe­cially big men.

At the time, Dodd was a lightly re­garded prospect on the East­ern Shore with one Divi­sion I of­fer, from Mor­gan State.

“I needed to sign like seven guys that year and I thought, ‘Maybe we can make him a player,’ ” Tur­geon re­called Thurs­day dur­ing the Big Ten Me­dia Day in Wash­ing­ton. “‘We’ll take a chance on him — he’s 6-11.’ And then the first work­out we had with him, it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I Sea­son opener Nov. 11, 7 p.m. TV: Big Ten Net­work Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

made a huge mis­take.’ ”

That feel­ing fol­lowed Dodd into his fresh­man year, where he played spar­ingly be­hind Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare. Yet there was enough that Dodd showed on the court — in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive stretch in a sec­ond-half come­back at Duke — to make Tur­geon think it might work out.

By the start of his sopho­more year, Tur­geon had no other op­tions. Mitchell and Cleare were among the five play­ers with re­main­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity to trans­fer and Dodd was the only ex­pe­ri­enced cen­ter left in the pro­gram. He wound up start­ing 31of 35 games on a 28-7 team, the first to reach the NCAA tour­na­ment in five years.

“He was the start­ing cen­ter on a team that won 28 games, most reg­u­lar-sea­son wins ever. [That] shows you how far he’s come,” Tur­geon said. “He’s grown as a bas­ket­ball player, as far as his knowl­edge of the game on both ends of the floor. He’s much more skilled than I thought he was go­ing to be.”

As the Terps cel­e­brated the start of their 2016-17 sea­son with Mary­land Mad­ness on Fri­day night, Dodd was one of the more fa­mil­iar faces on a team that in­cludes six new play­ers, five fresh­men and grad­u­ate trans­fer L.G. Gill. Dodd is the only player aside from star ju­nior Melo Trim­ble who has started ex­ten­sively.

“Melo’s run­ning the of­fense and as a lot of peo­ple know me, I run the de­fense,” Dodd said in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day. “I’m just telling guys where to be on the de­fen­sive end, help-side and things like that. I’m just try­ing to be a leader on de­fense. That’s my niche, that’s what I know.”

Known mostly as a shot blocker and de­fen­sive post pres­ence, Dodd has been very lim­ited on the of­fen­sive end. In 90 games, Dodd has scored in dou­ble fig­ures only once, a ca­reer-high 13 points in a win over Illi­nois State in the semi­fi­nals of last sea­son’s Can­cun Chal­lenge.

Dodd said he has spent the off­sea­son work­ing on his low-post of­fen­sive game with as­sis­tant coach Bino Ran­son, try­ing to add a jump hook and ex­pand his range and accuracy with a base­line turn­around he has shot with some suc­cess the past two sea­sons.

“I have to be more of an of­fen­sive threat,” Dodd said. “Coach Tur­geon and I have had plenty of meet­ings where he’s said, ‘We need you to score more.’ I’m fine with that. I al­ways have flash­backs. In high school [at Queen Anne’s], I was a scorer.”

Said Tur­geon, “The piece that’s miss­ing for him of­fen­sively is the low-post scor­ing, and I think he’s go­ing to give it to us this year.”

Tur­geon sees be­yond the stats to judge Dodd’s value to his team and the way it plays.

“There’s no one bet­ter in the coun­try in tran­si­tion at get­ting the ball to the point guards in po­si­tion to make plays for them­selves and other play­ers like Da­monte,” Tur­geon said. “He’s ter­rific at it, L.G. Gill, a trans­fer from Duquesne, com­petes in the dunk con­test. For a blog post about Melo Trim­ble’s rare dunk Fri­day night — and video of the Terps talk­ing about it — go to bal­ti­more­sun.com/ track­ingterps. and he’s help­ing teach our other guys how to do it.

With Di­a­mond Stone, who took over as Mary­land’s start­ing cen­ter mid­way through last sea­son, leav­ing for the NBA af­ter his fresh­man year, Dodd is back as the team’s likely start­ing cen­ter. He will share the min­utes this year with ju­nior Michal Cekovsky, as well as red­shirt sopho­more Ivan Ben­der and fresh­man Joshua To­maic.

“De­fen­sively he’s the an­chor. He’s smart,” Tur­geon said. “He’s been a re­bounder. And ul­ti­mately, the best thing on the court about Da­monte is that he just wants the team to win.”

Along with mak­ing a third straight NCAA tour­na­ment, Dodd has an­other goal for his se­nior year. He plans on grad­u­at­ing in the spring with a de­gree in African-Amer­i­can stud­ies. It’s a prom­ise he made to his grand­mother and other mem­bers of his fam­ily.

“I don’t know how many peo­ple in my fam­ily grad­u­ated [from col­lege], but not too many have. I can leave Mary­land with a de­gree,” Dodd said. “My grand­mother al­ways told me bas­ket­ball is not go­ing to be here for­ever, you’re go­ing to have a Plan B.”

Tur­geon has seen the growth off the court from Dodd as well.

“He’s be­come a good role model,” Tur­geon said. “He’s a great fam­ily guy. ... He just does so many things. That’s why you coach col­lege, to be around guys like him.”

KEVIN RICHARD­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Da­monte Dodd, left, sits with Melo Trim­ble dur­ing Mary­land Mad­ness on Fri­day night. In his se­nior sea­son, Dodd is fo­cused on hav­ing a greater scor­ing im­pact for the Terps.

KEVIN RICHARD­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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