It seems like we've been waiting for this for a decade or so, but Bahamanian-by-way-of-Houston big man Shaquille Cleare finally made it official and committed to Maryland earlier today. He joins Seth Allen as Maryland's second commitment in the 2012 class, and hopefully gives the Terrapins some recruiting momentum.
Cleare's commitment is big for a number of reasons. First and most importantly, he's just plain good. Cleare's a four-star on all three major recruiting services, as well as in the top 40 of all three. His other suitors included schools like Kansas, Arizona, and Texas - that is, schools Maryland should be competing with for recruits on a regular basis.
What's more, he plays at a position that Maryland desperately needs. There are three scholarship big men on the roster, none of which are proven, and one of which is graduating this year. The Terps need to take at least two post players in this class, if not three, and Cleare is a fantastic start to that end.
I've seen a few of Cleare's games, so I'll try to give a half-decent scouting report. The first thing that really strikes you about Cleare is his size: he's absolutely massive, in both a good and bad way. Good, because you can't teach size; bad, because he really does need to trim some weight. Then again, so did Jordan Williams three years ago, and Paul Ricci had him shedding pounds in no time. So long as Shaq has the desire to do the same, I'd expect the same to happen.
On the court, Cleare understands positioning and gets himself in the right spot on both ends of the floor more often than not. His hands are particularly soft, letting him catch passes most other big men fumble. The offense doesn't really flow through him, instead finding points on put-backs or lay-ins around the hoop. He is developing a little mid-range jumper, which will serve him well and keep defenses honest. He runs the floor well despite his size, and though he isn't the most athletic guy in the world, he can get up when he needs to.
In short: he's similar to Jordan Williams, and given that Maryland needs size of any kind, he'll be a very welcome addition.
But his recruitment is interesting and meaningful for a number of other reasons, like Bino Ranson's continuing emergence as a recruiting superstar. This is the second top 50 player he's landed in his two years at Maryland, and he's leading the charge for super recruits Mitch McGary and the Harrison twins. I'll just go ahead and say it: Ranson is the best recruiter on the staff, Dalonte Hill included, and one of the best in the nation. If he lands either McGary or the Harrisons, I'd put his three-year recruiting resume up against any assistant in the country. Mark Turgeon better keep him close, because another year like this, and big money offers will be on the table, either from bluebloods or as a HC at a smaller conference.
Another interesting aspect: Cleare is the first player from an Under Armour-sponsored AAU team to commit to Maryland, UA's flagship. Players often - not always, but often - end up at schools that are sponsored by the same brand as their AAU team, which has obviously put Maryland at a slight disadvantage over the past three or so years. Think of it as getting a head-start with a recruit. I don't know how much it played into Cleare's recruitment, if it did at all, but it definitely didn't hurt. Keep looking for UA to expand, and for Maryland to target those AAU teams.
And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Cleare plays for the same AAU team as Aaron and Andrew Harrison. They aren't really that buddy-buddy - at least I haven't heard that they are - but they do know each other pretty well. That's important for recruits who, like the Harrisons, are looking for that all-elusive "family atmosphere."
But enough about side stories. The main attraction here is certainly Cleare, and his commitment, as unexpected as it might be, is a boost. With any luck, it'll give Turgeon and Co. some momentum in the class. The Terps obviously need to keep on targeting big men, and the target at the top of the list is Mitch McGary, who recently cut his list to six. This should give some credence to the rebuilding plan that Turgeon is pitching him, and will ensure that McGary won't be all alone in the post.
If Ranson/Turgeon could pull off the unlikely and land McGary beside Cleare, the frontcourt would instantly be among the best in the conference. The two would actually work rather well together; the offense doesn't run through Cleare the way it does through McGary, so Shaq would be comfortable working off the more dynamic option, cleaning up misses, and offering an option on the weakside. They'd be a difficult duo to defend, even as freshmen.
But McGary has plenty of bluebloods vying for his services, and is far from a likelihood. Luckily, the Terrapins have plenty of options in the post, from Robert Carter to Robert Upshaw to Prince Ibeh. Given Maryland's lack of post depth, I wouldn't think the commitment of Cleare would do any harm - in fact, it should do good - but you never truly know how players will react.
Enough analysis; sometimes, video is all that's needed. Enjoy: