“It’s not a pipeline,” D.C. Assault president Curtis Malone says, even though it sure waddles and quacks like one these days.
O’Connell junior guard Melo Trimble announced his oral commitment to the University of Maryland on Thursday. When Trimble arrives in College Park in 2014, he will join 2013 recruits Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd, his teammates on the local AAU program.
Coach Mark Turgeon’s concentrated efforts to retain local talent since arriving two seasons ago are materializing. His inaugural class spanned the nation, reaching from Massachusetts (Jake Layman) to Texas (Shaquille Cleare), Atlanta (Charles Mitchell) to Woodbridge, Va. (Seth Allen), but Peters, Dodd and Trimble represent a DMV domination. All three played within Malone’s program, Peters from Suitland High School, Dodd from Massanutten Military Academy by way of Queen Anne’s County High and now Trimble.
Much of that stems from Turgeon’s desire to lock down the beltway scene’s top prospects, and assistant coach Dalonte Hill is the key figure. Hill himself played for D.C. Assault in the mid-1990s. Hill’s hiring at Maryland was a clear gesture toward the local recruiting scene, which Hill had owned even while at Kansas State, famously luring Michael Beasley to the Wildcats.
“With assistant coaches, it’s so important that they make the parents and the kids feel like it’s the person they can really trust,” Malone said. “With head coaches, they aren’t that easy to deal with at times. With all of the guys who have come through the program, the kids who usually visit them and choose the school they’re at, the assistant coach is just so important, when you’re making a decision.
“Most of the guys are going to pick and choose the assistant who they’ll feel the most comfortable with. Dalonte has made those guys feel like they’re little brothers, like they’re family to him.”
Still, Malone insists this isn’t a burgeoning pipeline from D.C. Assault to College Park. Rather, influxes like these can occur in waves, with friends following each other in pursuit of success at the next level.
Nolan Smith broke the levees for Duke in 2007, before Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thonrton all followed in recent years. Now?
“Duke hasn’t come to recruit a lot of the kids over the last couple of years we’ve had, but maybe they don’t think that the talent is the level they want and what they do,” Malone says.
Duke’s diverted attention is Maryland’s gain, it seems. Peters, Dodd and Trimble are all four-star recruits, according to ESPN.com. Of course, Turgeon won’t be able to secure commitments from every local star — limited numbers just won’t allow for that.
But it seems that Turgeon and Hill are getting first crack at players from D.C. Assault and other top AAU programs, still very much in the running for others within the class of 2014, including Dwayne Morgan (St. Frances Academy) of BMore’s Finest AAU, as well as Dion Wiley (Potomac High School), Phil Booth (Mount Saint Joseph) and Obi Enechionyia (St. James School), all members of Nike Team Takeover.
Malone, for his part, says it’s not a matter of steering players towards Hill, Turgeon and the Terrapins. Rather, he just wants to look out for the family.
“I always ask our kids, hey, these guys are family guys, these are D.C. Assault former players, they wore the uniform,” Malone said. “It’s not a pipeline. All I ask is for the kids and the family to give our guys an opportunity. There will be a kid for whom basketball will not work out, and I can use Dalonte as a prime example.
“You can’t play basketball forever anyway. You can coach until you’re 60, 70 years old, and you can make a living from it. I don’t really consider it a pipeline. All I want is our younger guys to acknowledge our family, and whatever decision they make, it’s their decision.”