To be clear, I hope junior Maryland guard Melo Trimble returns for his senior season. Whatever else I may say in this space, there is no debate I believe Maryland would both be better and more relevant with Trimble back for his senior season.
That's not exactly a hot take.
On the cusp of a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, Maryland fans are dealing with the reality that these could be their final chances to enjoy watching Trimble while still hoping he may have one encore season left in him.
Conflict, without question. While largely enjoying the surprisingly pleasant season Trimble and the Terps have put together this year, fans have been left with feelings of "what if," should the All-Big Ten first-team performer stick around. In the process, perhaps Maryland fans haven't been able to fully appreciate and celebrate exactly what they've had in Trimble.
Make no mistake. If this is the last we see of Trimble before he decides to enter the NBA Draft, he has already left his mark as one of the better players in school history. He's right on the cusp of the top 10 scorers in school history. His career has been synonymous with head coach Mark Turgeon finally getting the school back into national contention, as the team snapped a four-year NCAA Tournament drought during his freshman season. His knack for clutch performances (including game-winning shots like the one he hit against Michigan State March 4) and toughness in key situations won't soon be forgotten.
Whatever your thoughts are regarding the wisdom of Trimble leaving early, there is no diminishing his greatness, even if he's only a three-year player in College Park, Md. His jersey is already heading toward the Xfinity Center rafters. For the rest of his life, he'll only pay for meals in the area if he chooses.
But yet, as you watch the final games of the season, it's hard not to imagine what more there could be if Trimble decides he's up for one more season of college basketball.
"[Maryland] could be one of the top five teams in the country if everyone comes back," former Terp/current ESPN analyst Len Elmore said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 7.
Former Terp and current men's basketball sideline reporter for the Maryland Sports Radio Network Walt Williams agrees.
"If Melo was to come back next year with this team, wow, you definitely have to consider this team as one of the teams that has an opportunity to win a championship," Williams said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 28.
This is why it's so conflicting. As much as Maryland fans appreciate what Trimble has already done, there's this feeling of what could still be. To take nothing away from the enjoyable season the team has put together this year, the Terps don't enter the NCAA Tournament with fans having great confidence in a deep run. (Which of course isn't to say it would be impossible, it just doesn't feel particularly likely.)
Should Trimble return for his senior campaign, however, such expectations would feel more practical for 2018. The Terps' interior presence would remain a cause for concern, perhaps incoming freshman center Bruno Fernando could help. But a battle-tested trio of freshmen (forward Justin Jackson and guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter) rising to sophomores alongside one of the best players in the Big Ten gives good reason to believe something special could be in store.
Before your mind runs too wild, it's important to remember there is no "correct" answer for Trimble. The "what-could-be" factor should not and cannot outweigh the individual's need to do what is best for him and his family. Given his draft prospects and the fact he didn't rush to the pros the first chance he had, there's reason to believe he might be willing to stick around. But if Trimble believes now is the correct time to go, that's his decision alone to make. Barring something absurd, he's going to make significant money to play basketball next season if he departs.
Which is why Maryland fans should appreciate every opportunity they have to watch him as the season winds down. Trimble has been an incredible player, and this may truly be it. In this era of college basketball, three years with one team is a figurative eternity. Trimble's accomplishments deserve appreciation, even if Maryland's stay in the tournament this year is brief.
And yet ... you just can't help but to wonder what might be if he chooses to stick around.
Issue 231: March 2017