Re­plac­ing Len pro­vides Cleare op­por­tu­nity

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY ALEXAN­DRA SOPKO

That doesn’t stop the crit­ics from won­der­ing. Last year, Len av­er­aged 11.9 points and 7.8 re­bounds per game. Al­though with far fewer min­utes, Cleare av­er­aged 3.7 points and 2.7 re­bounds.

Hop­ing to prove the naysay­ers wrong, Cleare lost 30 pounds in the off­sea­son be­fore re­turn­ing to cam­pus. But a strained ham­string that turned into back pain left the Ba­hamas-born player out of com­mis­sion for a month.

Af­ter re­hab­bing and train­ing at his home in An­dros, where his fam­ily will be watch­ing Fri­day’s game, Cleare feels trim, slim and ready to go. And he says not to let Sun­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion game against Catholic Univer­sity, where the Terps had four turnovers be­fore the first me­dia time­out, skew that pic­ture.

“I’m in bet­ter shape now since the last game; I’ve ac­tu­ally lost five pounds since last game,” he said.

When asked how he lost five pounds in four days, Cleare said it was, “Eat­ing right, ex­tra car­dios af­ter all the work­outs, hit the stairs, hit the bikes — nu­tri­tion is im­por­tant. I know my team is go­ing to need me this year so I’m go­ing to have to be in tip-top shape.”

While Cleare could be a spokesman for a healthy liv­ing cam­paign, the re­cent weight loss along with his com­ments on “ex­e­cu­tion and poise,” also show a new­found ma­tu­rity.

“We’re so much more ma­ture,” coach Mark Tur­geon said. “The guys that are play­ing, the guys that we’re count­ing on, have been through a lot.” Cleare’s com­ments re­flected that growth. “I’m ready to go now, though,” he said. “I’ve got to put the team on my back. I’m go­ing to have to hold it down for my team this year.”

It’s good the 6-foot-9 player has a big back, then. It’s also good for Mary­land that de­spite be­ing a young team, Cleare and al­most all of his team­mates are taller than their Con­necti­cut op­po­nents. Class­mate Charles Mitchell and newly el­i­gi­ble Penn State trans­fer Jonathan Gra­ham, who both mea­sure up at 6-8, will help take the pres­sure off Cleare.

‘This is a big role for me and Charles,” Cleare said. “We’re two of the big­gest and most phys­i­cal guys on this team.”

Sopho­more Jake Lay­man says the big men on his team, the ones who do the “dirty work,” as Cleare put it, are ready.

“They’ve worked pretty hard th­ese past two weeks,” Lay­man said. “There’s no rea­son they’re not ready for this game right now. ”

Cleare’s also ready to change his luck at Bar­clays Center. The last time the Terps played in Brook­lyn, they re­turned home with a dis­ap­point­ing 72-69 loss to Ken­tucky in the sea­son-opener.

“I think last year go­ing into Bar­clays we weren’t that pre­pared,” Cleare said. “I just don’t think we were that con­fi­dent. But this year we are much more ag­gres­sive, ready to go.

“This team could be re­ally, re­ally good this year but it’s up to us. We’ve got to ex­e­cute. … It’s time to turn on the lights now; prac­tice is done.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“I’m go­ing to have to hold it down for my team this year,” says Shaquille Cleare, Mary­land’s 6-foot-9, 265-pound center.

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