When Melo Trimble warms up before a game, several things need to go right for the O’Connell senior to feel confident. Certain shots need to fall, free throws need to be swished and a “nasty” habit needs to take place.
So as the superstitious guard struggled to complete the majority of these rituals before Sunday’s game at Gonzaga — a contest that would result in one of the area’s most prolific scoring performances ever — Trimble found himself frustrated, anxious and pessimistic.
“Usually I have this bounce, this swagger before a game, like ‘Yeah I’m going to have a good game,'” Trimble said in a Monday interview. “But nothing was going right. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
What happened was a 47-point outburst, pushing O’Connell to a 69-68 win and adding another feat to a strong senior campaign that’s seen Trimble earn a spot on the McDonald’s All-American team and lead his team to a first-place tie in the WCAC standings.
The rare turn of events began in warm-ups. Following layup drills, the Knights split into two groups, with one unit shooting the ball and another rebounding. Normally, the sharpshooter gets his share of attempts, allowing him to build a rhythm for the looming game. But on Sunday, for whatever reason, he only put up five shots in four minutes.
“Normally I get the ball a lot, but before the Gonzaga game, I wasn’t and I started getting frustrated,” a smiling Trimble recalled. “I was thinking, ‘I need to get the ball so I can get some shots off.'”
On the few occasions he did get the ball, Trimble shot several free throws. And per his normal routine, these foul shots serve as another prophetic tool for the the All-Met guard.
“If I make them all, it’s going to be a good day,” said Trimble, who shots over 80 percent from the foul line. “If I miss them, it’s going to be a long day. And I missed one, so I was like, everything is going wrong.”
Trimble’s final resort came just before player introductions, when he harkened back to last year’s WCAC championship game. That was the first time Trimble removed the gum from his mouth and placed it under the seat, spawning a ritual that he’s followed ever since.
“I know it’s kind of nasty and I don’t know why I do that, but I’m just really superstitious,” Trimble said. “I was hoping that would work because it was the only thing I had left at that point.”
After knocking down his first shot, followed by consecutive turnovers, Trimble was still unsure of what kind of game he would have. But then he hit a three…and then several mid-range jump shots…and then connected on a few drives…and then some more threes. Though it was clear that Trimble was putting together one of his best performances, neither he nor his coaches knew he was on track for a school-record 47 points, including six threes and 21-for-23 performance at the foul line.
“When I heard after the game that he scored 47, I was in shock,” O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten said. “Of course, he’s scored more than 30 for us on numerous occasions, but he’s so efficient in the shots that he takes, it doesn’t seem like he’s shooting or scoring all the time. One of our coaches said it was a quiet 47, which is funny because it’s like, ‘How do you score a quiet 47?'”
According to Wootten, Trimble actually had a shot at scoring 50 but a three-pointer that the Maryland recruit drained came just after a whistle stopped play on a foul.
The performance came just two days after Trimble showcased his evolving point guard skills in a win against WCAC rival Paul VI, recording 27 points and 12 rebounds while dropping eight assists that helped propel teammate Lewis Djonkam to a career high 22 points.
With the WCAC tournament less than two weeks away and Trimble bent on defending the Knights’ title, it’s anybody’s guess as to what the Maryland recruit might do next. Regardless, he’s already commanded the respect of recruiters, fans and even opposing coaches.
“Melo is amazing,” Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello said via text Sunday. “One of my favorite players that I’ve seen in 20 years. Reminds of (former St. John’s standout) Chris Wright!”
Related: O’Connell takes down Paul VI again