After failing to gain entrance into the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament for the foreseeable future, the Terrapins began looking for another way to get Shaquille Cleare back home. The sophomore center left his native Bahamas at 15 years old, bound for cramped Texas bedrooms and grueling morning workouts. He visits his home town of Andros occasionally, a puddle-jumper away from the Atlantis Resort on nearby Nassau. But on Monday, Cleare’s two worlds will merge.
The Maryland men’s basketball team will travel to the Bahamas for a four-day, three-game foreign tour, allowed once every four years by the NCAA. They will face two local all-star squads and a professional team, more fun exhibitions than actual preseason tests. Unfortunately for Cleare, he likely won’t suit up.
This offseason, Cleare has lost nearly 30 pounds, floating around 257 right now, down from 280 when the season ended in March. But during a summer workout, Cleare strained a hamstring. The pain carried into his back. He’s been hurt almost a month now, only recently progressing to half-speed participation during practice. The weight has stayed off, but rushing Cleare back for exhibitions – even in his native country – doesn’t make sense.
“At this point, he hasn’t been able to do anything full-contact,” Turgeon said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think [Cleare will play]. We’re going to sit down and talk about it today. My guess is no. He hasn’t felt comfortable. He knows that’s not important.”
After Maryland’s final game in the Bahamas next Friday morning, Cleare will stay behind with his family for a vacation. The rest of the team will fly stateside and disperse until classes begin in September.
In the Bahamas, Turgeon said, Maryland won’t conduct any pregame scouting meetings or shootarounds. The Terps put in enough work over nine summer practices allotted by NCAA regulations. The trip serves as a cherry on top.
“We’ll just show up for the game and play,” Turgeon said. “This time of year, that stuff’s not as important as having a good time. Putting our work in now, they’re putting in their work, so we’re going to go down there, hopefully play well in each game.
“It’s more about the practices. I wanted to have great practices, put in a few things, which we’ve been able to do and learn from it and be comfortable from it. That’s really what I wanted to get out of the beginning part of it. To be quite honest with you, I just want to have fun. I want our guys out on the water slides, my whole thing is just staying hydrated. We’ll try to turn them loose during the day and have fun.”
Turgeon declined to discuss rotation plans, but the Terps will have 13 healthy players on hand. In addition to Cleare, senior John Auslander had his appendix removed and won’t play. With Cleare out, sophomore Charles Mitchell could slot into the starting center spot; like Cleare, he’s shed substantial weight this summer, exactly 20 pounds since the season ended.
Seth Allen should start at point guard, backed up by incoming freshman Roddy Peters. Peters, who recently decided against wearing jersey No. 3 – Juan Dixon’s number – and will wear No. 2 instead, has been impressive despite coming off shoulder surgery and almost six months of rehabilitation.
“He’s way ahead of where I thought he’d be,” Turgeon said. “Great kid, very coachable kid. After those two, I don’t know which direction I’d head. Hoping those two can handle it.”