Thursday, Shaquille Cleare announced that he would transfer from Maryland to Texas. The former product of The Village School (also the alma mater of Isaiah Taylor) in Houston, Cleare was the No. 37 recruit in the Class of 2012, per Scout.com.
The Texas staff looked at available wing transfers as a way to beef up the team's backcourt scoring. But ultimately, with the late play of Martez Walker, who averaged at 16-5 in two NCAA Tournament games, a fully healthy Javan Felix who battled injuries through half of this past season and the potential development of Kendal Yancy and Damarcus Croaker meant that Texas could be much-improved in that area.
And with Cleare making it onto the transfer market, so to speak, it gave the Longhorns a chance to address another need area: cover in case the 'Horns have a mass exodus of post talent following the 2014-2015 season. Jonathan Holmes will graduate after the year, and many people feel that Cameron Ridley might jump to the NBA a year early. Given that Texas might not get Myles Turner, and even if the Longhorns do get him, he might be a one-and-done anyway, the possibility existed that Texas could head into 2015-2016 with just Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert in the post (barring the addition of 2015 recruits, obviously).
The chance to add an experienced post player, and especially one with Cleare's upside, then, was too much. Cleare wasn't able to fit in at Maryland, where he played just 20-plus minutes five times this past season. And he only topped double-digits once, scoring 10 points and grabbing five offensive boards against Florida Atlantic. In many ways, he actually regressed after his freshman year, watching his offensive rating drop nearly six points, shooting worse percentages from the field and the free throw line, grabbing a lower percentage of rebounds and watching his turnover rate jump 4.6 percent.
But there's a player in there somewhere, something evidenced by more than just his four-star ranking and spot as the No. 11 center in the 2012 class. Take a look at this side-by-side comparison. The better stat is bolded.
Shaquille Cleare (Freshman)
Percentage of Team's Minutes Played: 29.2
Offensive Rating: 107.7
Effective Field Goal Percentage: 58.0
Free Throw Rate: 37.0
Free Throw Percentage: 59.5
Turnover Rate: 19.0
Offensive Rebound Rate: 9.5
Defensive Rebound Rate: 15.0
Cam Ridley (Freshman)
Percentage of Team's Minutes Played: 38.9
Offensive Rating: 77.2
Effective Field Goal Percentage: 46.2
Free Throw Rate: 71.8
Free Throw Percentage: 33.3
Turnover Rate: 25.2
Offensive Rebound Rate: 11.6
Defensive Rebound Rate: 17.6
Now, take a look at Ridley's numbers as a sophomore:
Percentage of Team's Minutes Played: 63.8
Offensive Rating: 111.4
Effective Field Goal Percentage: 54.5
Free Throw Rate: 80.5
Free Throw Percentage: 62.6
Turnover Rate: 16.5
Offensive Rebound Rate: 13.5
Defensive Rebound Rate: 20.4
Granted, Ridley is a better defender, thanks to his length and shot-blocking than Cleare is. And he's a better rebounder, though those percentages were certainly in-range.
But Ridley made a monster gain on offense between his freshman and sophomore years, leaving Cleare behind on that side of the court. The point is this: Cleare was clearly (sorry) a more efficient offensive player (albeit using fewer possessions) as a freshman than Ridley was.
So while Cleare didn't make the jump his sophomore year that Ridley did, the possibility still exists that he could make that kind of leap. And with a transfer year to sit out, it means he has less road to travel, and more time to do so, to be able to perform a reasonable interpretation of what Ridley brought to the team offensively this past year. That he'll be able to practice that while honing his game against defenders like Ridley and Ibeh can only help.
This transfer class had other players who could step in immediately, and certainly some players who might have been sexier options. But in Cleare, Texas lands a former top recruit who still has a ways to go before reaching his ceiling, somebody who offers protection in case players jump to the pros early and a player who has the potential to impact games offensively and as a rebounder once Ridley leaves the 40 Acres.