Maryland’s Shaquille Cleare showed improvement after a dubious dunk

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

Maryland center Shaquille Cleare checked into an exhibition game this month. Within three minutes, the burly freshman’s first shot, and a dunk attempt at that, bounced astray.

He never got going that night, then played a limited role in last week’s season opener against Kentucky.

Finally, there was a glimmer of the Cleare the Terrapins knew, an eight-point, five-rebound effort Monday against Morehead State.

“I’ve recruited Shaq for three years, but you’re still getting used to how to coach him,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s very positive, upbeat, works hard every day guy, and that was the first time I saw him hang his head a little bit and not smile. I’m sure we’ll have it again at some point being a young player, but hopefully he learned from it and continues to grow and get better and mature.”

An optimistic Cleare is what Maryland (1-1) hopes to have Friday at Comcast Center when it plays host to Long Island (0-2). As nonconference play unfolds, the Terps will try to develop several newcomers in their 10-man rotation.

None is literally as big as the 6-foot-9, 265-pounder. Few figuratively loom as large for the direction of Maryland’s season.

The Terps enjoy far greater (and larger) options in the frontcourt than they did a year ago. Senior James Padgett is a steady presence. Sophomore Alex Len is much improved. And Cleare and Charles Mitchell provide Maryland with a pair of promising freshman bigs who figure to advance considerably over the course of the season.

A shaky first impression does little to change that.

“That’s the first time I missed one in a long time,” Cleare said of the errant dunk. “I’m going to be hard on myself because I want to be great. I care about a lot of things. It’s not going to stop me from going to practice the next day and working hard. I will never carry it over into another game or carry it over into another practice. I’m going to be hard on myself, because that’s what all the great players do.”

While Cleare made it to the foul line and provided some offense Monday, his greatest value at the moment clearly lies at the defensive end. His overall ability is progressing, as is his awareness of the Terps’ defensive principles.

Turgeon is optimistic he can soon find ways to play Len and Cleare together, though it will require Len to gradually learn the power forward spot rather than the center position he currently shares with the freshman. Put them together, and Maryland could field a formidable back line on defense, one prepared to swat shots with exceptional proficiency.

It was a skill Cleare capably demonstrated against Morehead State, earning the second of three blocks emphatically to bring on the final media timeout.

“You can’t let anyone come in there and embarrass us and score on us like that,” Cleare said. “You have to put the ball in the stands where it’s supposed to be.”

It also has Cleare’s mind back in the right place.

After the missed dunk, Mitchell urged Cleare not to allow an exhibition game to get him down. After a seven-minute stint against Kentucky, Mitchell reminded his friend it was only one game in a long season.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • Hall of Fame Inductees, KISS, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley speak at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, April, 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    KISS rocker Gene Simmons touts 1 percent life: ‘It’s fantastic’

  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama