Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell have been best friends since coming up for the Capital Classic before their freshman year at Maryland and have roomed together since coming to College Park a few months later.
That makes things a little tricky if Cleare continues to struggle and Mitchell continues to blossom.
The highest-ranked player in last year’s freshman class, Cleare sat behind Alex Len at center as a freshman while Mitchell, not nearly as touted coming out of high school, got more time at power forward. With Len now in the NBA, Cleare is going to get every opportunity to live up to the hype he came with from Houston.
Cleare works hard, and he played better defensively in the second half of Friday night's 78-77 loss to Connecticut here at Barclays Center than he did in the first half, when it seemed that the Huskies got any shot they wanted near, at or above the rim.
The Terps had zero blocked shots against Connecticut, compared to the four Len had by himself in last year’s 3-point loss to Kentucky at the Barclays Center.
Mitchell, though, had 12 points and three rebounds off the bench in 20 minutes and helped Maryland nearly steal one at the end. In comparison, Cleare had four points and one rebounds in 19 minutes after starting.
Which brings us to the rest of the season.
Who is Turgeon going to start, and who is going to assume the back-to-the-basket position on offense now that the Terps can’t play that much “small ball” with point guard Seth Allen until January with a broken foot?
I’m sure Turgeon will continue to start Cleare as long as he gives effort, but the third-year coach admitted Friday that he needs more than that from the 6 foot 9, 260-pound center.
I asked Turgeon after the game if he was concerned with Cleare.
“We need more out of Shaq, there’s no doubt about it,” Turgeon said.
Turgeon is always looking for positives to say about Cleare, one of most diligent workers on the team.
“I thought his defense in the second half was better, the ball screen defense was better, I thought he contained [Shabazz] Napier and [Brian] Boatwright as best he could for his size," Turgeon said. "His minutes were much better in the second half.
“I challenged him at halftime. We need him. I keep saying it, Shaq’s practicing better. He didn’t play a lot last year. It was a new stage for him and different minutes. We need him to play better and he will.”