- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2015

In the span of a few hours Saturday, Melo Trimble scored 21 first-half points against a perennial conference power in front of a national television audience. He performed a highlight-reel crossover that went viral on social media sites. His name trended nationally on Twitter. He drew repeated praise from a legendary opposing coach. And he smiled his way through 45 minutes of interviews before signing autographs for a handful of kids, taking a picture with each of them, one by one.

Trimble was never going to be able to fly under the radar this season. He arrived in College Park as a five-star recruit and the program’s first McDonald’s all-American since 2003. The talk surrounding him was always more hype than hidden gem.

Yet there was no way Trimble could have prepared for this much success, and this sort of national profile, so early in his college career.

“I never saw this coming,” the freshman point guard said Friday. “I thought I was going to come in a little slow, nervous. But I’m glad the way things are working out.”

As the 14th-ranked Terrapins have climbed to the top of the Big Ten standings, Trimble has led the way and subsequently drawn a national spotlight. Last week, he was one of 25 players named to a watch list for the Wooden Award, which is given annually to the best player in the country. Longtime ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale has dubbed Trimble one of the top five “diaper dandies” in college basketball. CBS analyst Seth Davis’ tweet about him Saturday included the hashtag “mancrush.”

“He’s the straw that stirs the drink, there’s no question about it,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after Maryland’s 75-59 win over the Spartans. “He’s as good [a freshman point guard] as I’ve seen in a while.”

Trimble’s rise hasn’t surprised Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who watched the guard develop for several years at nearby Bishop O’Connell High School. The fourth-year coach knows that Trimble is capable of taking over a game like he did Saturday, when he scored 13 consecutive points in one stretch and finished with 24. And he also knows that Trimble has the type of humble demeanor that will help him navigate the increased attention that will follow that type of performance.

“He’ll handle it the right way,” Turgeon said. “Melo will be Melo, and he’ll just keep getting better.”

Nearly a year ago to the day, Trimble scored 31 points for O’Connell in a home win over St. Mary’s-Ryken. The plastic bleachers at the Arlington school were a little more than half-full that day.

Trimble sometimes thinks about how far he has come as a player since then, and how the stage for his game has changed, but he hasn’t let that journey change his approach.

“I mean, I do good things, but I don’t want to dwell on it or keep thinking about it,” Trimble said. “I look at it with the good and the bad, and basically just go off Coach Turgeon. He’s a humble guy, so I just get my attitude from him and the way he carries himself.”

Trimble ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.7 points per game and currently leads the Terrapins in assists, steals and minutes per game. Senior Dez Wells has told Trimble that, even as a freshman, he has become one of the leaders of the team.

Yet as the season has progressed and Trimble’s national profile has grown, teammates say he’s the same guy he was on the first day of summer workouts.

“He’s the same Melo — laid-back, chill guy,” redshirt senior Richaud Pack said. “If you tell him he’s the greatest player in the world, he’ll probably just say, ‘Thanks.’ And if you tell him he’s the worst, he’ll probably say, ‘That’s your opinion. Thanks.’

“That’s the good thing about Melo. He’s level-headed, and I think that’s helped him handle everything.”

Trimble is not yet a household name, but moments like his crossover dribble at the end of the first half Saturday, which sent Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn crumpling to the ground, have him well on his way.

After the game, Trimble sat at a white folding table in Maryland’s media workroom and was asked if he’d seen video of the play.

“Yeah, I saw it,” he said with a big grin. “It’s nice. But I mean, it’s just one game. Just one thing [that] happened. Just got to move onto the next and stay humble.”

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