Melo Trimble got the green light with seven seconds to go as his coach called the play “victory” at a recent O’Connell practice. After freezing his defender with a through-the-legs dribble followed by a quick crossover, Trimble sliced into the lane.
Just a day earlier, the senior guard had erupted for a school-record 47 points in a 69-68 win over Gonzaga. And for a moment, it appeared he had space to score again on his signature floater. But as the defense converged, Trimble spotted a cutting Oumar Barry and dropped a pass inside to the forward, who layed the ball in just before the buzzer.
“A year ago, Melo would have shot that,” O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten said. “But he’s really developed his game to be a scoring point guard, where he’s found the balance of when to dump it off and when to shoot it.”
If Maryland coaches and fans had their way, Trimble would be making this evolution in a Terrapins uniform.
Following the transfer of Pe’Shon Howard last spring and a foot injury that sidelined Seth Allen for eight weeks, Maryland’s point guard position has been a revolving door — one that Trimble considered walking through last year when Maryland coaches approached their highest-ranked commit about enrolling early.
Though Trimble ultimately decided to stay put, his skills haven’t. Trimble has elevated the No. 4 Knights’ chances at defending their title in this weekend’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament while skyrocketing the McDonald’s All-American’s potential for when he does join the Terrapins.
“If I would have went to Maryland last year, I would have had only one year playing point guard,” said the 6-foot-3 guard, who is averaging 23.4 points per game. “I know I needed that second year, and having another season at O’Connell has really helped me grow.”
Despite his quick learning over the past two years, Trimble wasn’t exactly born to be a point guard.
Sensing he had acquired her shy spirit, Trimble’s mother, Kim, thrust her son into sports in hopes of balancing out his introverted personality.
As Trimble thrived at a young age, he lacked the athleticism and dribbling ability of some of his counterparts. What he did possess was a strong competitive drive.
“He always wanted to work out, to the point where you have to tell him sometimes that it’s okay to let your body rest,” Kim said. “I’ve never had to push him because he has that extra drive.”
As a freshman at O’Connell, Trimble poured most of his energy into defense, using his strength and sound footwork to hold some of the WCAC’s top players in check.
“He didn’t start his first three games, but then we put him in the lineup because he was our best defender,” Wootten said. “He just got better from there and ended up being our leading scorer.”
With more teams paying attention to the rising star and Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon relaying his desire to recruit him as a point guard, Trimble worked tirelessly to expand his on-the-ball skills.
In a routine he employs at least three times a week, Trimble began leaving his Upper Marlboro home around 5:30 a.m. to either ride with his mother or take the Metro to O’Connell, giving him an hour to put up shots or train in other areas before changing into his uniform for the school day.
The fruit of Trimble’s labor blossomed last season, when he made 102 three-pointers and led the Knights to the WCAC and Alhambra Invitational championships.
Motivated by the constant double teams and box-and-one defenses he’s faced this year, Trimble has expanded his scoring moves and improved his passing and rebounding ability, making him even more of a headache for opponents.
“It’s hard guarding him,” said junior Eric Dunbar, who typically defends Trimble in practice. “He’s quick and he’s strong, but when he goes to the basket, he’s so finesse. I mean, who scores 47 points in a WCAC game? He’s just that good.”
Trimble’s success as a junior, coupled with Maryland’s uncertain point guard situation, generated whispers of the All-Met graduating early. And with the Terrapins stumbling to a 15-12 record to date, he could have added depth, at the very least. But despite Trimble’s deep love for Maryland — a passion rooted in the glory days of Juan Dixon and cemented during a visit last season to a home contest against Duke — his desire to improve as a player trumped all.
“Coach Turgeon will still call and text me and say, ‘We could really use you now,’ ” Trimble said. “It makes me happy, but I don’t want to get too big-headed. I wanted to use this season to work even harder so that when I get there, he won’t regret recruiting me.”