For Shaquille Cleare, the subject of my profile that ran in Tuesday’s paper, the recruiting process intensified his junior year, with shadowy figures trying to influence Shaq and Don Harvey, his high school coach. It is a competitive business, to say the least. The Village School is now outfitted by Under Armour, and because of that the team was not accepted into some tournaments sponsored by Nike. The shoe wars are as nasty as ever.
As for favorite colleges, a lot of people in Shaq’s circle wanted him to go to Texas A&M because it was close to his Houston high school and Coach Mark Turgeon was there. Shaq’s father, Brian, was high on Miami because it was the closest to Shaq’s home in the Bahamas. But Shaq had an affinity for then-Maryland Coach Gary Williams, even though Harvey didn’t quite understand it because Harvey was not sure whether the program was on the rise anymore.
Shaq really liked Williams and Turgeon because he viewed them as authentic in a recruiting world of show and sales pitches. Shaq cried when Williams announced his retirement last May.
“He accomplished a lot of things,” Shaq said of Williams. “He knew how to develop players to get to the next level. With him leaving, it was kind of hard for me, because that is who I was expecting to be my coach. I feel that is where I would have been. When he retired, it was hard for me then. I basically thought I might have to go to a different school. But I really didn’t want to have to leave Maryland because I already had a feel for Maryland. Then Coach Turgeon got hired, and that just made everything better because A&M was my second option, so him going to Maryland really changed everything for me. I could trust them and what they are saying that they could do for me. I put a lot of trust in them. Coach Turgeon is a professional guy. Turgeon makes sure it is done right.”