The fate of the next Maryland basketball season could hinge on the feedback star point guard Melo Trimble receives from NBA scouts this spring.
Trimble announced Monday night he will declare for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility he could return for his junior season.
If Trimble leaves, Maryland will have to replace every member of a supremely talented starting five that led the Terps to a 27-win 2015-16 season and a Sweet 16 appearance. If Trimble comes back, Maryland will still have questions in the frontcourt but the Terps can build around a perimeter corps highlighted by one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards.
Trimble returned to Maryland after an outstanding freshman season in hopes of solidifying himself as a future first-round pick, but his sophomore season was too erratic to achieve that goal.
Among the positives: His assist-to-turnover ratio improved and he enjoyed some strong stretches, especially during the first half of the season. Among the negatives: His outside shot deserted him, he endured a painful February slump and he could not get to the foul line as consistently because opponents consistently went under screens and dared him to shoot jumpers.
Trimble is currently projected as a second-round pick by most scouts and mock drafts. For him to improve his stock during workouts or the combine, the 6-foot-3 junior-to-be would likely have to show the consistent outside shooting stroke that he lacked during the latter half of the season.
Were Trimble to return, he’d come back to a roster that hardly resembles the one Maryland fielded this past season. Guard Rasheed Sulaimon and small forward Jake Layman both graduate, power forward Robert Carter decided last week to turn pro and hire an agent and freshman center Diamond Stone followed suit on Monday.
There’s still enough talent in the backcourt that Maryland would have a good chance to return to the NCAA tournament if Trimble came back.
A healthy Dion Wiley should be a fixture at one wing spot. Fellow returner Jared Nickens will compete for playing time at the other. And Maryland’s three-man recruiting class is anchored by Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, the former the heir apparent to Trimble at point guard and the latter a high-scoring 6-foot-7 guard who can play anywhere on the perimeter.
The greater concern would be the frontcourt regardless of Trimble’s decision. Though both Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd have enough talent to seize the starting center job, neither has proven himself as a starter-quality option yet. Power forward is even more uncertain as the job could go to 6-foot-9 Bosnian native Ivan Bender unless Maryland finds another option on the graduate transfer market.
Of course, the return of an All-American-caliber point guard would hide a lot of warts.
With Trimble, Maryland can still finish in the upper third of the Big Ten and reach the NCAA tournament. Without him, the Terps could be headed for a rebuilding year.
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