Maryland’s frontcourt experiment -- playing big guys Shaquille Cleare and Alex Len simultaneously -- appears to have worked well enough to be continued.
Cleare was inserted into the starting lineup at center in the 51-50 win over N.C. State. Len moved to power forward.
Cleare scored eight points on 4-for-7 shooting. He also had five rebounds. Len’s 10 points included the game-winning basket with 0.9 seconds left.
“I thought Shaq was terrific,” coach Mark Turgeon said of the freshman. “I think that was probably the best thing about the whole night was Shaq -- how well he performed and how he ready he was for it. That was really encouraging. That took a lot of pressure of Alex defensively. I’m really hoping it’s the start of something good for us.”
Cleare, who is 6-foot-9, said he and Len haven’t played much together, not even in practice. But that appears to be changing. Cleare said that the defense’s focus on the two big men “opens up the floor for everyone else.”
Playing the “4” is a transition for Len. He clearly has the skills to play the position. He’s extremely coordinated for a 7-footer. The man can do a respectable cartwheel (no kidding).
But there’s a learning curve.
“You saw some times in the first half where we would come out and guys would just stand around looking at each other on offense?” Turgeon said. “Well, that’s because Alex had no idea where he was supposed to go. So we had to really simplify it. So we were really generic when those two were in the game.”
The Terps travel to North Carolina for an ESPN game on Saturday at noon.