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Maryland transfer C Shaquille Cleare signs with Texas
There had been rumors in recent days that the Horns would pick up the native of the Bahamas.
The Texas Longhorns basketball team added some future front court depth with the addition of former Maryland Terrapins center Shaquille Cleare, who left Mark Turgeon's program in early April:
Big move outta Austin....Shaquille Cleare has transferred to Texas!!
— Dain Ervin (@BIReports) April 24, 2014
The 6'9, 285-pounder had visited Austin in the last week and was recruited by the Horns out of high school, but did not receive an offer. Despite being born in the Bahamas, Cleare attended The Village School in Houston, the same high school attended by current Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.
A former four-star prospect by Rivals rated as the No. 53 player nationally, Cleare also held offers from Arizona, Baylor, Miami, South Florida, and Texas A&M before committing to Maryland in August of 2011. He's a member of the 2012 class and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits out the coming season.
Cleare was a disappointment at Maryland based on his lofty recruiting rankings coming out of high school -- he averaged 3.7 points per game as a freshman and only 3.0 as a sophomore, playing less than 14 minutes per game in 2013-14. Free-throw shooting isn't one of his strengths either, as he shot less than 60% from the line both years.
There's probably some athletic upside left with Cleare, evident in this clip from AAU ball when he dunked over current Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel:
Here are some highlights from a game during his senior season at The Village:
Despite the potential shown in high school, Texas fans should probably temper their expectations -- the reasonable best-case scenario with Cleare may be that he develops into a capable role player who could play as many as 20 minutes per game.
His best game last season suggests his upside may not be any greater than that at this point, courtesy of Testudo Times:
His biggest impact performance came in arguably Maryland's biggest game of the year; the final ACC game against rival and highly ranked Virginia. While Cleare didn't stuff the stat sheets that game, he was able to provide valuable quality minutes while Charles Mitchell dealt with foul trouble the whole game. He played a season-high 26 minutes against the Cavaliers, scored five points, snagged five rebounds, managed to go 3-4 from the free throw line and was partially responsible for Akil Mitchell only putting up four points and four boards.
Even if he is merely a role player at Texas, Cleare could provide valuable minutes behind Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh during the 2015-16 season and would potentially have a chance to start the following year after the departures of those two players.
Since Ridley still isn't a quality NBA prospect, assuming that he sticks around for his senior season probably isn't too much of a stretch, which raises some questions about why Cleare would want to enter a situation in which there isn't a high potential for starting, but regardless, the Longhorns have increased their depth and perhaps could even get lucky if Cleare develops as much during the next year as Ridley did between his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Head coach Rick Barnes may not ask him to do much more than defend, block shots, rebound, and finish around the rim offensively and Cleare is probably capable of that.
JUCO dual-threat QB Pat Thomas on the Texas radar
The Horns are continuing to evaluate quarterbacks.
The Texas Longhorns appear to be in strong position to land USC Trojans graduate transfer quarterback Max Wittek, but that didn't stop the staff from reaching out recently to Georgia Military College dual-threat passer Pat Thomas.
In other words, it looks like there is a possibility that play caller and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson could bring in two more quarterbacks this fall after neither sophomore Tyrone Swoopes nor senior Miles Onyegbule looked capable of running the team this fall based on their respective performances in the spring game after combining for three interceptions and taking eight sacks.
A two-star prospect by 247Sports, Thomas is a 6'4, 185-pounder ranked as the No. 3 junior college dual-threat quarterback, the No. 13 junior college player in the state of Georgia, and No. 238 among all prospects in junior college. The fact that he could rank so highly among players at his position and so low overall illustrates just how thin this junior college quarterback class is in 2014.
And Thomas wasn't even supposed to be on the market this long. He signed with UAB in December after committing several days before, but was released from his letter of intent after a coaching change. After redshirting his first season at GMC, he has three years to use his remaining three seasons of eligibility.
He currently holds offers from South Alabama and Troy and is looking to pick one up from Louisville after taking an official visit to the school last weekend. He told Orangebloods.com that the Cardinals are his top school right now and that the Horns would need to move quickly with him if the interest is sincere.
However, if Louisville is slow to extend an offer, that could lengthen the timetable, which obviously has a drop-dead date of early June when the first summer session starts.
Statistically, Thomas threw 17 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions, with an interception rate of 2.9%, a little bit on the high side, but nothing that merits a ton of red flags. His completion percentage of just over 53 suggests some problems with accuracy at times, but his overall yards per attempt of 8.2 is a good number.
On film, it's a bit hard to see why Thomas isn't ranked as a three-star prospect, as his delivery is quick and his mechanics don't appear to have any glaring, obvious flaws. With a whippy delivery, there's some nice zip from Thomas on slant routes over the middle and he also demonstrates the ball placement to make sure his receivers are the only ones with a chance to catch the ball, throwing a back-shoulder pass on one play and another ball down the sideline to a leaping receiver in tight coverage.
Additionally, he consistently shows the ability to throw touch passes down the seam over defenders -- his mechanics aren't flat like Swoopes, so he can alter his trajectory when necessary.
At the college level, he may have to increase his level of concern for linebackers undercutting some of the inside breaking routes he manages to fit into fairly small windows at Georgia Military College. If he's not quite reckless at times, he is certainly confident in his arm strength and accuracy.
There also doesn't appear to be a high level of sophistication in his ability to go through his reads -- he typically knows where he's going before the snap and doesn't move defenders with his eyes or hit his second or third progression often.
As a runner, Thomas gained less than 200 yards on the ground last season and it doesn't appear that the zone read game was a big part of the offense, but he does throw well on the run and has a nice burst when he keeps the ball. Extremely lanky at 185 pounds, he's not going to be breaking many tackles at the next level.
The fact that he redshirted a season is both a positive and a negative -- it kept him from gaining the game reps that would have him further along on his developmental trajectory had he played in 2012, but it also preserved another season of eligibility that makes him a more valuable recruit because he does have three seasons left.
Is there a chance that the interest in Thomas is a sign that the coaches are worried about Wittek choosing another school or failing to graduate? At this point, it seems like the bigger concern is making sure that there are multiple healthy quarterbacks on campus who are capable of playing this fall.
The offer list and rankings of Thomas may put that into question, but he does look further along than Swoopes mechanically and has enough athleticism to make some plays in the running game and on the move, so it may be worth the risk if something happens with Wittek or the staff feels like Thomas is a necessity even with Wittek.