As I explained yesterday, this is a series of posts designed to get to meet Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon's first incoming class of Terps. Yesterday, we profiled combo guard Seth Allen. Today, we'll meet big man Shaq Cleare.
The highest-rated player in Maryland's top 15-rated class, Cleare was actually a Maryland lean back when Gary Williams was the head coach, and some folks speculated that he would have ended up a Terp.
Lucky for Maryland, Cleare's second-favorite team was Turgeon's Texas A&M. So when the Terps hired Turgeon as Williams' successor, it was a no-brainer.
"It had a huge effect. He liked Texas A+M and Maryland, they were his
top two schools. When
Williams retired, that was tough for him. He was down and we didn't know
what he was going to do. Then Turgeon gets the job and that made him
like Maryland even more," said Village School coach Donald Harvey.
Cleare committed in August, three months after Seth Allen. He chose the Terps over offers from Arizona, Baylor, Miami (FL), South Florida, Texas and Texas A+M.
He's ranked between the 30th and 53rd overall prospect in the country across Rivals, ESPN and 247sports.
As a junior, he averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds a game for Houston's Village School. In the process, he drew comparisons to Boston Celtics big man Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
"A lot about him reminds me of ... Big Baby, in that he has surprising quickness, he can rebound and he really knows how to score. He can step out and hit the 12-to-15 foot jump shot," said Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com.
Perhaps the most impressive of his attributes, beyond his strength, footwork and soft hands, is his ability to finish around the basket. At one point during his senior season, he was shooting 83 percent from the field. And Houston Defenders AAU basketball coach Aaron Harrison Sr. noted that "he scored 72 percent of the time we gave him the ball."
With a little conditioning over the summer, the wide-bodied Cleare will likely be the highest-impact freshman big man for the Terps. And amazingly, the Bahamian-born Cleare has only been playing basketball since he was 14 years old.
"He has the best hands that
I've seen in such a long time. I don't think there's a limit to his
potential to be honest. If you play him one-on-one, because he's so big
and strong, he puts his body on the defender and scores," Harrison said.
Cleare's reasoning for joining the Terps was fairly simple: "It's a strong conference, they have
great coaches and they're good at developing players," he said.