Damonte Dodd loves the silence. He loves hearing himself think inside an empty Comcast Center, the only sounds a bouncing ball and the swish of the net. No distractions. Just him. “You get to focus what you want to focus on,” Maryland’s freshman center said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
The player whom Dez Wells called his funniest teammate, Dodd rarely goes anywhere without his iPhone or iPad. He blasts music wherever he goes, and that includes his short walks over to the gym. But once he steps inside, often late at night with the building entirely quiet, he cuts off the tunes. The silence can be spooky, but it’s always overridden by the tangible feeling of getting better. Dodd knows how far he has to go as a Maryland basketball player. Those late-night sessions help axe the distance.
“When I’m in here by myself, I focus on my game, get in and get out,” Dodd said.
Dodd was supposed to arrive at Maryland last summer, but he took a prep year at Massanutten Military Academy. Once a little-known prospect from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Dodd started at center in a prep school lineup that featured five Division I recruits, including two ACC players and Kansas point guard Frank Mason.
Under Massanutten Coach Chad Myers, Dodd learned to co-exist among fellow stars, rather than dominate the spotlight like he did in high school. It helped usher Dodd into his freshman season at Maryland, where the expectations are low but his enthusiasm shoots through the roof.
“He can run,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “He can run all day. He never gets tired. He really doesn’t get it yet, but he still covers a tremendous amount of space on defense.”
Without Alex Len serving as Maryland’s rim bouncer, the Terrapins no longer employ a go-to shot blocker. Starting center Shaquille Cleare is best as a back-down defender, far stronger than he is vertically adept, while forward Charles Mitchell relies on lateral speed to defend rather than jumping ability to swat shots.
With time, Turgeon hopes, Dodd can fill that role. The third-year coach still doesn’t consider Dodd capable of starting, but he can eat up bench minutes without much effort, despite the fact that effort is all Dodd brings.
“Because he’s such a great athlete he’s going to make plays in the game,” Turgeon said. “He’ll run right past our guards on the break which will open the floor up. We’ll pitch it ahead to him. I think he’s a great rebounder. Shot-blocking’s good. On both ends of the floor he’s a tremendous rebounder. Right now he’s more of an energy guy for us. But we’re going to play 35, 40 games this year and we’ll come out flat on a few of them. Hopefully not many but I’m sure we will. He can give us great energy.”
Dodd all but blushed when he heard Turgeon called him a “high-energy guy,” but accepted the label. His solo gym sessions are primarily spent learning more post moves, like hook shots from both sides and baby hooks beneath the basket.
Besides, the Terps don’t need him to score. The offense will run through its guard-heavy perimeter, and any post options should filter through Cleare and Mitchell. But Maryland will need anywhere from five to 15 minutes of the aggressive 6-feet-10 Dodd on any given night, simply running the floor, snatching rebounds and blocking shots. At those moments, maybe, he won’t be so silent.
“The biggest thing is know your role,” Dodd said. “If you know your role you’re going to be a good player.”