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August 24, 2011

Shaquille Cleare 'fell in love with Maryland'

For Shaquille Cleare, there was always something about Maryland he just couldn't shake.

The 6-foot-9, 285-pound center from The Village School in Houston had strong feelings about the Terps from the start, even with an unexpected coaching change in the midst of the recruiting process.

“He was really, really intrigued by Coach [Gary] Williams. That’s what got it started,” said Village School coach Don Harvey. “When Coach Williams left, Shaq was a little down about that. So we had to get him back up. The next school on his list was [Texas] A&M, and then [Mark] Turgeon ended up going to Maryland, so that made it even more [attractive]. … I think he fell in love with Maryland.”

On Thursday morning, Cleare made it official with Maryland, committing to the Terps over offers from Arizona, Baylor, Miami, South Florida, Texas and Texas A&M. A four-star prospect and the No. 29 prospect nationally according to, Cleare joins Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian guard Seth Allen as part of Maryland’s 2012 recruiting class. Cleare decided to become Turgeon’s second recruit shortly after returning to Texas from a trip visiting his family in their native Bahamas.

“[Turgeon] loves him,” Harvey said. “He thinks he’s a great low-post player. He runs the floor well and thinks Shaq can shoot the jumper. He has a lot of respect for Shaq. He’ll put him in a good spot to play well there. It’s a great place for Shaq."

Cleare came to the United States from the Bahamas as a plus-sized ninth-grader. Then a 6-foot-7, 255-pound post player, Cleare was a raw talent in need of coaching, conditioning and skill development.

“My impression was that he had a lot of upside,” Harvey recalled. “He wasn’t a great player at that time. I don’t even think he was Top 500 as far as his ranking. We had a load of work to do to get him where he is right now. He’s got a great motor right now. He has just totally progressed over the years. He has turned into a great player.”

A Bahamian boys program was responsible for Cleare settling in Houston, but his first living situation in the U.S. didn’t last long. Before Christmas that first year, Cleare left the program and was looking for a place to live. He quickly turned to his coach.

“He asked me at that time, could he move in with me. [I said], ‘Absolutely not,’” Harvey said with a laugh. “But as time went on, we got to know him and fell in love with him. We brought him over, went to church [and] had dinner one weekend, three years ago. He never left after that.”

Cleare’s gradual development as a post prospect culminated this spring and summer with the Under Armour-sponsored Houston Defenders on the AAU circuit. He quickly emerged as a highly coveted national recruit – and essentially a must-get for Maryland. Van Coleman, publisher of, watched Cleare “15 or 20 times” over the past few months, and rated the future Terp as the No. 35 prospect in the country and one of the “top three or four low-block scorers” in the 2012 class.

“He has tremendous hands, surprisingly quick feet and bounce, which is one thing with his body that you don’t necessarily expect,” Coleman said. “A lot about him reminds me of [Boston Celtics power forward] Glen Davis, 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.”

Coleman thinks Cleare would be even more effective if he lost 15 or 20 pounds – a definite possibility in a college strength-and-conditioning program. Earning a McDonald’s All-American Game nomination isn’t out of the realm of possibility “if he really starts strong this season.” After high school, Coleman expects big things out of Cleare in College Park.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts from Day One,” Coleman said. “He needs to work on his lateral quickness as a defender, but he uses his size well to get people off the block. I think from Day One, he’s a guy that comes in, starts, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he becomes the go-to guy for them on the interior.”

James Padgett and Ashton Pankey will be the only scholarship post players on Maryland’s 2012 roster, making Cleare a likely candidate for the Terps’ starting center spot as a freshman.

“That’s one of the reasons why he chose to go ahead and get it done,” Harvey said. “He’s looking to start. He’s a big-time player. That’s part of the reason, and hopefully a lot of guys will follow him there.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:58 AM | | Comments (29)


Fantastic news, welcome aboard Shaquille!

Great news! Now lets go get the Harrison twins and make a hard sell to McGary. Fear the Turtle!

OUTSTANDING News!!! Great job coach! And welcome Shaq. You're be a fan favorite the second you hit campus.

He's a beast, but the first thing he's going to need to learn is to keep the ball high on his rebounds. In this clip he's bringing it down to his waist. Easily fixable though and the physical skills are off the charts.

Way to go Turge and staff! Can't wait to see Shaq do his thing at Comcast in 2012.

Excellent news!!!

Maryland really needed this first big commit to give the new coaching staff credibility with other 4- and 5-star players. This is a big win for Maryland and hopefully we can leverage this into other top-100 commits (including his AAU teammates the Harrison twins).

He looks like quite an athlete in the video, albeit against high school players giving up 6 inches and a hundred pounds to Cleare.

For the first time in years I feel like Maryland basketball is on its way up; I am truly excited to see what Turgeon and his staff can do here!

The ball is rolling down the lane when its all said and down it will be a strike. This is the start of something special. Good job Bino I am proud of you now lets fill in the rest. Dalonte and Spinelle. McGary waiting on you.

I'm starting to believe.

Life after GW, 5 STAR recruits show up!!!

He looks really good on this video. But it is kind of deceptive. Is there a guy on the other team taller than 6 ft?

He can clearly play and the body plus the hops will take him a long way in the ACC.

Turgeon and his staff should be congratulated on their persistence in securing Cleare's commitment to Maryland. It is a very important first step for Turgeon as it sends a positive message to other prospective high level recruits. As well, it should also immediatley relieve some pressure on him and his staff regarding recruiting, especially since Cleare, by even his own account, was already a strong lean toward Maryland while still under Williams' command. To "lose" Cleare under those circumstances would have been a huge initial setback for the program.

Did anyone else notice that all the highlights are from the same game? How does he look when he's not playing the Washington Generals?

This was a critical first step toward attracting both McGary and Jefferson. Neither wanted to play out of position and this allows them to play at PF and SF. And, Clear gives the Terps a guy who matches up well against the big guys at Carolina and Duke.

and the dominos begin to fall!!!!!!!!!

@T. Hughes
Cleare was going to commit to us with Gary at the helm, but began investigating other schools when GW retired.

Actually T. Hughes, Shaq is a FOUR star recruit. Overall 29th overall and 6th by position in 2012 class. Sweet!

As stated its th beginning of what we hope is a list of other top ranked recruits to follow.

Good job MT and staff.

Now lets see Shaq keep learning and growing - he's far from a finished product ready to dominate Div 1-A MBB. Let him grow and learn and try not to be impatient with his progress.

Maryland fans will love this kid - especially if he's as personable as his namesake.

And please, leave the past alone. Different era and different philosophy about recruiting.
The past 22 years didnt turn out so bad did they? Time to move forward.

Sharkdaddy and Tracy....Cleare is a legit big man, plenty of video on the Interweb of him competing with his AAU team the Houston Defenders playing this summer against top competiton. His team beat BABC in the super showcase final, which was telecast on ESPN. You may still be able to catch it on ESPN3 on the web. Here is a link to a dunk in that game over Nerlins Noel, one of the top big men in the country.

A great get for MD, welcome to the Terp family!

Get McGary!!!!

So far so good. Not a great surprise since he had MD at the top of his list for a while. Now comes the fun part... who's next?

Soft hands, grabs the rebounds at the peak of his jump. Get him in the gym and he will be a monster.

We've all seen clips of Shaq playing against both lesser and stronger talent and he holds up well every time. What strikes me as odd is in the clip above, you see him getting lots of dunks cause he's standing all alone under the basket. In some cases there's no one even in the frame when he gets the ball. I doubt he's beating everyone else down the floor so does that mean he's not even running back on defense?

The Big Sequel is com in' to town!

With Cleare committing, does this mean that they are not going to sign Volodymyr Gerun?

Great day for Terp Bball. We always had problems landing big men since Moses Malone went to the ABA in 1974. Nice timing for some real news, aren't those football unis terrible. Anyway, great job Bino and Turge let's load up on thoroughbreds. I'm sure that you'll make Lefty proud.

He has only played basketball for 4 years. By the end of the year he could move up in the rankings. Let's hope.

If the video shows him dominating a team of smaller, lighter players, than he is doing exactly what he should be doing, DOMINATING. Apparently, persons knowledgeable with basketball have seen him go up away much better/larger competition and prove he is the real deal. Thus, the higher HS rankings assigned to him. Congradulations for choosing Maryland and let's hope he is the first of many highly recruited players to make the rest of the nation "Fear the Turtle".

I watched the espn2 bottom line scroll for a complete hour(cleare commits to maryland) im blushing,im yappy! No negatives with this commitment

For those who weren't aware of this, Cleare matched up with Nerlens Noel, who is a top-5 rated player at center and considered the best post defender in his class, and took it to him (even dunking on him a couple times.) He's clearly a legitimate player at the national level.

feeling the love now ... think maybe this might be the payoff for the 400k that gw gets. i am a gw fan (gary not george) but still think the 400k was excessive for go-away money; he was well paid for during his coaching years. does he get more next year?

sc - glad your heading east, specifically college park. you should get load of playing time.

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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