Terps basketball vs. Connecticut: Pregame notes from Brooklyn

November 8, 2013

(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Greetings from the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, where the Maryland men’s basketball team opens its season against 18th-ranked Connecticut at the Barclays Center. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m., but here are some pregame notes to get you started:

>> Transfer Jon Graham could make his Terrapins debut after receiving being cleared to play by the NCAA on Wednesday night. Right now, former Penn State forward slots behind Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Damonte Dodd in Coach Mark Turgeon’s front-court rotation.

“Jon’s an energy guy, shot-blocker, plays hard,” Cleare said. “He’s kind of like Dennis Rodman. He’s going to get some good minutes, hopefully in the U-Conn. game. I’m glad he’s eligibile to play.”

With point guard Seth Allen sidelined with a broken foot, Turgeon predicted Maryland “might have to play the bigger lineup” and pound inside. That would mean moving Evan Smotrycz to small forward, which could open up space for Graham.

“He’s had a great preseason,” Turgeon said of Graham, son of Maryland legend Ernie Graham. “His head was spinning, whole new system, he’s getting the hang of it but he’s been a great kid and a great addition.”

>> Cleare labored through Sunday’s exhibition game against Catholic, starting the contest but scoring just two points and grabbing four rebounds in 20 minutes. The sophomore has been hampered all preseason by back issues, but says he is healthy and ready for the opener.

“I’m in pretty good shape,” he said. “The exhibition game wasn’t too great for me. I struggled a little bit. But it didn’t bring me down.”

Since the Catholic game, Cleare said he has dropped five pounds, cutting his playing weight down to around 260 through a mix of proper nutrition, extra cardio and running the stairs inside Comcast Center.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “Got to put the team on my back. [Former center Alex Len] isn’t here no more, so I’ll have to hold it down for the team.”

Classmate Charles Mitchell had a markedly better exhibition, with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Against Connecticut’s comparatively weaker front court, he might see plenty of time if Cleare struggles.

“This is a big role for me and Charles,” Cleare said. “We’re two of the most physical guys on the team. We’re going to come out, just play our game. We’re not going to get out of our comfort zone.”

>> Two stories in today’s print edition to check out: Liz Clarke on both Maryland and Georgetown taking center stage for their season openers, and Gene Wang on Terps women’s star Alyssa Thomas, a “once-in-a-lifetime” player. Plus some more Maryland-Connecticut notes right here.

>> Those are some new Maryland flag shoes Jake Layman is holding here. Might these be the latest Under Armour creation?

UPDATE: Here they are.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | November 8, 2013