February 22, 2012

One-on-one with Damonte Dodd

In an age where elementary school hoopsters have highlights posted on YouTube and recruiting magazines break down the top middle-school prospects in the country, it's hard to believe that center Damonte Dodd was a relative unknown until the last month or two. After all, Dodd stands 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, can run the floor, can score in bunches (25 points per game), can hit the boards (17 rebounds) and can play relentless defense (six blocks).

But the senior Dodd, who committed to Maryland yesterday, plays in the anonymity of Maryland's Eastern Shore, hardly a basketball hotbed. He attends a small school in Centreville, Queen Anne's County High, and isn't exactly pitted against top-notch competition every night. Not to mention his AAU squads, the Delmarva Lakers and Annapolis Advantage, don't have quite the same cache as a D.C. Assault or Baltimore Elite, two nearby powers.

On top of that, Dodd really didn't begin to emerge as a player until the end of his junior season, well after college recruiters identify their main targets.

"I hit a major growth spurt when I was six years old, but I really wasn't that good [at basketball] until the 11th grade," Dodd said. "I did some things at the end of the year in terms of shooting, rebounding and [overall development] that I wasn't able to before. That motivated me to really work in the offseason. Then I just took off this year."

That might be a slight understatement. Dodd averaged a double-double and scored over 20 points in all but four of his first dozen games. But he said it wasn't until he poured in 41 against Kent County in mid-January, followed by a 30-point, seven-rebound game against Easton that the recruiters started to take notice.

"After that all these college started flowing in," Dodd said. "At first it was schools like Bowie State and Coppin State. But then places like Georgetown, Dayton, Maryland and Seton Hall started coming through. I was like, 'Whoa, how did this happen?' (laughs)."

Of all the schools that watched him play, however, Maryland piqued his interest the most. Not only did the Terps offer a chance to play major Division-I basketball, but it was his hometown school.

"Basically, it was a dream to be recruited by Maryland," Dodd said. "They're a great program, obviously, and it's nearby so my parents and friends can come to most of my games. Then the coaches, the fans, the players - everything is great there."

Maryland coach Scott Spinelli was Dodd's lead recruiter. Dodd said the Maryland assistant came to watch him several times and showed "a lot of love."

"Coach Spinelli is a really funny guy, so he kind of reminds me of myself. I love to laugh and have fun," Dodd said. "Coach was always really happy to see me, but he was also very real with me. He never beat around the bush. I love that guy."

Eventually Dodd had a chance to meet head coach Mark Turgeon, who formally extended a scholarship offer on February 21. It didn't take Dodd long to accept it.

"It meant a lot to [get the offer]. I never thought I'd get to this point," Dodd said. " Coach Turgeon said I have some work to do, but if I keep working hard and staying humble I can make an impact. I was thrilled and told him I was ready to be part of the program. Hopefully I can come in and push the guys they've got and maybe get some playing time."

Dodd got a feel for his new home at the Maryland-Miami game last night. He watched the Terps overcome a late deficit to beat the Hurricanes, 75-70.

"It was a great atmosphere. The team welcomed me in, the fans were great and the coaches were awesome down there," Dodd said. "I had a really fun time, and I'm glad that I'll have a chance to experience that again when I get here."

There are questions whether Dodd will be able to compete against ACC competition right away, however. Some speculate that he may have to prep or redshirt for a year. But Dodd believes he'll be ready soon after he arrives in College Park.

"Really, I know I have the ability to compete at that level, and I know I have the tools," said Dodd, who compared his game to Kevin Durant's. "I can run the floor, I can shoot, I can rebound - everything. It's just a matter of continuing to push myself and listening to the coaches. Basketball is really a mental game, and if you believe you can do it, then you can."

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