The news bounced into the group text Friday afternoon, when the three future Maryland basketball players learned of another departure and again found room for optimism.
“It makes me want to enter school right now,” Melo Trimble said. “It just gets me motivated for next year.”
Last month, Trimble, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens began anticipating their arrival in College Park when three Terrapins announced their intentions to leave. While fans digested the transfers of Roddy Peters, Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust, the trio of incoming freshmen, three-fifths of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, swapped messages and shared their hopes for the future. More minutes. A bigger spotlight. The chance to make an immediate impact.
Then word dropped Friday that another Maryland player, point guard Seth Allen, would also leave the program, carrying with him a fearless athleticism that helped him score 13.4 points per game last season. But Allen’s transfer also blew the door open for Trimble, Maryland’s first McDonald’s all-American since 2003, to start immediately. The news left no question. It is now Trimble’s show.
“I was surprised,” Trimble said. “I thought me and Seth were going to play well together, or I might come off the bench and fill his minutes, whatever it takes to win. He can shoot; I can shoot. He can score; I can score. We could have both run the team.”
Several days ago, Trimble said he received a call from Coach Mark Turgeon, who warned him that Allen was weighing his options and would soon decide whether to stay in College Park or bolt elsewhere. Next season, Trimble recalled Turgeon saying, he would be counted upon to play major minutes and contribute for the Terps. This was news to Trimble, and quite frankly unwelcome.
“I didn’t want to hear that,” he said. “I want to get to College Park and earn my minutes.”
Trimble and Allen never talked much. The Bishop O’Connell standout and all-Met Player of the Year recalled seeing Allen, an under-the-radar recruit from Woodbridge, Va., when he played in high school, and they chatted on occasion whenever Trimble visited campus.
Sometimes, they laughed about their comparable skin tones – “I’m light-skinned, he’s light-skinned, it was a bit of an inside joke,” Trimble said – which made friends refer to them as twins, but not much beyond that.
“I thought next year we’d build a good relationship,” Trimble said.
Instead, Trimble will be counted upon to help steer a struggling program, one without an NCAA tournament appearance in the past four seasons, towards more successful waters in a critical season for Turgeon. The expectations will be immense, shown in the fan messages Trimble retweeted shortly after Allen’s decision leaked.
“Save us,” read one. “you’re our only hope!”
“Hope you got a strong back,” another said, “because you’re carrying this team.”
And a third: “SAVE US MELO PLEASE SAVE US!!!!!!!! RETURN US TO GREATNESS AGAIN. THESE LAT 5 YEARS HAVE KILLED ME PLEASE BRO. DO W/E U GOTTA DO”
Trimble meant nothing by the retweets, he said, only the desire to boost his count of followers.
“I’m not there yet [at Maryland] and I haven’t done anything yet,” he said.
Until his June 1 report date, when he will arrive on campus alongside Nickens, Wiley, Trayvon Reed and Michal Cekovsky – Cekovsky has not officially signed his scholarship agreement yet – Trimble is working out in the Washington D.C. area, trying to lose weight and hone his agility. He paid close attention to the 2013-14 season, when the Terps slumped to a 17-15 record, suffered a first-game ACC tournament exit and entered a spring now wracked with commotion. But all these transfers? Trimble doesn’t think much of it.
“I think people are going wherever fits them,” he said.
And for him, that means College Park.