The celebration around Shaquille Cleare’s homecoming to his native Bahamas was curbed somewhat with a nagging back injury that sidelined the sophomore center. As the ailment lingered into preseason, Cleare stayed limited in workouts and practice. With an already young and thin frontcourt, the Maryland basketball team needs strong bodies such as Cleare to eat up space inside the paint.
Cleare practiced without limitation Monday morning, and Coach Mark Turgeon expressed confidence that Cleare’s injury is behind him.
“Shaq looks great, doesn’t he?” Turgeon said. “Holy cow. Shaq was hurt forever. Thank god I wasn’t doing all that work with him. But from what I’ve gathered, we’ve done all the tests, everything checked out great. In his mind mentally, he’s at ease right now.”
Cleare averaged just 12.0 minutes per game last season behind Alex Len, but served as a valuable post defender against some of the ACC’s biggest centers. He’s a brick-wall defender who, according to preseason projections, could start for the Terrapins this season.
“He looks good, I think,” Turgeon said. “Geez. He looks really good. He’s really rebounding, he’s physical, he’s become a much smarter defender. I think about where he was last time and where he is now, it’s night and day. I’m glad he’s healthy. We need him.”
Cleare, Turgeon said, has lost nearly 30 pounds this offseason, and should enter the season at a playing weight around 260-265 pounds. He averaged 3.7 points per game in 2012, with three double-digit scoring games.
>> Forward Jon Graham, who transferred to Maryland from Penn State this offseason, has been practicing but is currently ineligible according to NCAA transfer rules. Maryland’s compliance office has filed a waiver on his behalf, citing family issues that Turgeon declined to disclose, but the coach estimated they were “probably three weeks away, maybe four” from hearing.
“Hopefully we’ll know sooner so he can play in the scrimmages and stuff like that,” Turgeon said. “Right now we’re doing the appeals.”
Graham averaged 1.9 points over 31 games for the Nittany Lions last season. His father, Ernie Graham, ranked 13th in scoring in Maryland history. Given the Terps have Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Damonte Dodd in the rotation, even if Graham gains eligibility he should be a fringe rotation player at best.
>> Turgeon said the Terps plan to hold an open intrasquad scrimmage Oct. 26, roughly three hours before the Maryland football team kicks off against Clemson. The football game time is TBA, and Turgeon will schedule his scrimmage accordingly.
>> John Auslander, Varun Ram and Spencer Barks have been placed on scholarship, Turgeon said. That gets Maryland up to 12, one short of its NCAA limit. Both sophomore Conner Lipinski and freshman A.J. Metz are preferred walk-ons who could be in play for that final spot, as could Graham.