- - Thursday, May 26, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Let’s face it — Melo Trimble decided to come back to Maryland for his junior year is based on how his travel itinerary looked for the foreseeable future.

At the end of the Terps’ 27-win, Sweet 16 finish season, the Melo Trimble North American tour was looking at stops in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and other major markets next season.

But after hearing the NBA had other ideas — Sioux Falls, Bakersfield, Grand Rapids — College Park, Maryland looked like a better place to spend the next year of his life.

“I am really excited to return for my junior season at Maryland,” Trimble said in a statement released late Wednesday night. “It’s truly special that I get to continue to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. I’m looking forward to working out with my teammates this summer, and I am excited for what we can accomplish. I learned a great deal through this experience, and I am committed to working hard in getting better each day.

“I’m appreciative of all the support that I have received from Coach [Mark] Turgeon, my family and my teammates throughout this process,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my education and building upon the success that we have had at Maryland.”

I like the kid, but he’s not coming back for sociology classes. He’s coming back because he heard from NBA officials around the league that, at best, he was looking at being picked in the second half of the second round of the upcoming NBA draft.

That meant a future in places like Erie and Fort Wayne – the NBA D-League. The “D” stands for development, but the reality is that it had stood for disappear. It has failed to serve as a way to grow the league’s best young talent — like Major League Baseball’s minor leagues — and instead has served as a weigh station for 10-day contract talent.

Normally, I think if a college player has a chance to make NBA money, you take it, and learn from the men you will be playing with for the next 10 years or so. At the end of his freshman season, it looked like Trimble would have a chance to do that. He had emerged as one of the best point guards in college basketball, and helped, along with Dez Wells, bring Maryland basketball back into the spotlight with a 28-victory season and a return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.

Trimble flirted with coming out for the draft last year, but, despite the impact he had in his freshman season, he was told to go back to school for one more year of development. The NBA would be there for him at the end of his sophomore year. And early in this past season, it seemed a foregone conclusion that it would be Trimble’s last year at Maryland. He got the blessing of NBA Most Valuable Player Steph Curry in an episode of Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” in early February.

“He’s so composed when he’s out there on the floor, but he’s aggressive and he’s not afraid of the moment, he’s not afraid to make big plays,” Curry said.

But the big plays stopped — and so did the development.

Trimble struggled with the weight of leading the team on his shoulders after the departure, and, despite reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003, the season was viewed by some as a failure — specifically Trimble failing to lead one of the most talented starting five in the country.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn’t see it that way. His statement spoke of the impact he had on the Terps program. “Melo informed me tonight that he has decided to return to Maryland for his junior season,” Turgeon said. “After gathering information throughout this process, I agree that this is the best decision for him. Melo is a very special person. He is a winner, and his impact on our program has been immeasurable. Melo has an extremely bright future ahead of him both on and off the basketball court. We are excited that he will continue to pursue his degree and build upon his legacy in College Park.”

The irony is, while Terps fans are elated at the return of Trimble, if he had the sort of season that would have made him a first-round pick in the NBA draft — and then leave College Park — it probably would have meant this past Terps team would have had the success everyone expected. It was the failure of this season that brought Trimble back.

Now he gets another chance.

Maryland may not be a highly-rated, talent-wise, but they’ll be competitive and could exceed expectations. The program, on the heels of the announcement of the return of Trimble, got some great news Thursday when highly-touted prospect Justin Jackson committed to Maryland.

If that happens, Melo Trimble will never see the likes of Reno, Canton or Santa Cruz.

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