Inside College Hoops: No shame in being a star in college but not making it to the NBA

Melo Trimble was terrific in his first season of college basketball — someone who went from a prospect ranked outside of the top 30 of his high school class to a freshman averaging 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range and leading Maryland to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

Naturally, after that, he considered entering the NBA Draft.

But Trimble ultimately returned to Maryland for his sophomore season.

This is what he said upon announcing that decision on April 1, 2015: “I am excited about spending another year with my teammates and building on what we accomplished this year. … This was the best decision for me. Being a member of the Maryland basketball program has been an unbelievable experience, and I can’t wait to be back in front of the best fans in college basketball next season.”

I believe every word of that statement was true. I believe Trimble was excited about spending another year and building on what Maryland had accomplished. I believe it was the best decision for him. But what was additionally implied in that statement is also worth noting this week, and that’s that when Trimble said he was excited about spending another year with his teammates he really meant just another year.

Like, only one more year.

His plan was to return to Maryland, have an even better season than his freshman season, win the Big Ten and maybe go to the Final Four. But Maryland didn’t win the Big Ten or advance to the Final Four. And Trimble definitely didn’t have a better season. He averaged fewer points on more attempts. His shooting percentage dropped. His 3-point percentage dropped. His so-called NBA Draft stock dropped. All of which left Trimble in a weird position. He could still enter the 2017 NBA Draft as planned, of course. But there’s no way he would’ve been picked in the first round, and going completely unselected wasn’t out of the question.

Simply put, that’s a tough spot — especially when considered from Trimble’s perspective. For more than a year, you see, he thought his sophomore year would be his last year of college. But his sophomore year didn’t go as anticipated. Consequently, this young man with one foot out the door saw the door change on him. It was no longer an NBA door. It was a D-League door. Or an overseas door. And that’s a helluva humbling thing to go through so publicly, I’d assume.

But here’s the good news: Trimble handled things perfectly. He went through the process the way NCAA rules allow, got feedback, listened and then made a smart decision to return to school. He wasn’t stubborn and determined to leave Maryland after two years, for better or worse, no matter what. He understood that changed circumstances made it necessary for him to change his plans, and then he changed his plans. And here’s some more good news: there’s nothing wrong with being a really good college player for three or four years.

We all understand that, right?

I ask because I feel like some have, for whatever reason, reached a point where if a great college freshman or sophomore ends up being a college junior or senior people start to view him as something negative bordering on a failure. Some stop appreciating him for what he is and begin to focus on what he isn’t.

“He’s not an NBA player! Not a real PG! Can’t shoot! He’ll never be in The League!”

It happened to Marcus Paige at North Carolina.

It’s happening to Melo Trimble at Maryland right now.

And, in fairness, it’s possibly true. Trimble might never play in the NBA. But that says more about the NBA than it says about him, and what it says about the NBA is that the NBA is hard, man. Millions and millions of people all over this world play basketball. Only about 400 are in the NBA at any given time.

So it’s not embarrassing when you don’t make the NBA after two years of college.

It’s amazing that anybody does.

And I just wish more folks would keep that in mind and better appreciate the talents of players like Trimble even if his talent might not prove worthy of the NBA. If four years at Maryland followed by a professional career overseas is as good as it gets, hey, that’s still pretty damn good. I hope Melo Trimble realizes that. And I hope he enjoys his third year in college even if he never planned to have one.

Melo Trimble is heading back to Maryland.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

College coaches basically work 12 months a year in some form. But late May/early June is a slow time in the profession, relatively speaking. Or, at least, it usually is for most. But it won’t be for Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, who lost not one but two assistant this week and thus has to replace them soon. Assistant Martin Ingelsby got the Delaware job. Assistant Anthony Solomon took a spot on John Thompson III’s staff at Georgetown. Brey told me Friday morning by phone that he plans to fill one spot next week and the other by the end of June. So he’ll spend the next several weeks working in ways he never expected to work.

California Golden Bears

Marcus Lee surprised many — including his own coaching staff — when he announced this week that he would withdraw from the NBA Draft but not return to Kentucky. In short, he’s willing to sit out the 2016-17 season per normal NCAA transfer rules so that he can play his final year of college basketball in 2017-18 and have a bigger role at a lesser program. Lee hasn’t said where he intends to transfer, only that he wants to be closer to home. His home is Antioch, Calif., which is 35 miles from Berkeley, Calif. And that’s among the reasons I’m told the 6-foot-9 forward is likely to enroll at California and play for Cuonzo Martin’s Bears.

Arizona State

Bobby Hurley had no real ties to the Pacific time zone when he took the Arizona State job last year, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing his job well. A recent commitment from Class of 2016 standout Romello White gave the Sun Devils a top-20 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports. That translates to the highest-rated Arizona State recruiting class in 247 Sports’ database, which goes back to 1999.

FINAL THOUGHT: Speaking of the Hurley family …

Bobby’s brother, Dan, is the coach at Rhode Island. And he’s at Rhode Island only because he turned down a lucrative offer to become Rutgers’ coach last March. As I’ve written before, Hurley passed on Rutgers for lots of reasons — mostly because it’s a crazy difficult job, but also because he’s got a really good roster in place and could be on the verge of guiding URI to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

And I couldn’t help but think of that when I saw this video …

Yep, that’s Dan Hurley thoroughly enjoying Iced Coffee Day, raising money for charity and ordering drinks from his wife at a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. Had he taken the Rutgers job, Hurley would be miserable and scrambling to make a roster that would lose 20-plus games next season no matter what. Instead, he’s having fun and relaxing like a man who has a team ranked 15th in the CBS Sports preseason Top 25 (and one), and that’s a much more enjoyable way for a college basketball coach to spend the month of May. Or any month, really.


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