Shaquille Cleare sat on the bench through nearly all of Maryland's 69-58 loss at Boston College on Tuesday. Matchup issues --- namely the Eagles' lack of size --- kept the freshman off the floor for much of the night.
Just a day earlier, coach Mark Turgeon said Cleare was the Terrapins' most coachable player. And, considering Maryland's penchant for turnovers and individual up-and-down play, that makes Cleare a bit of an anomaly.
It's a striking contrast, a coachable player whose minutes regularly fluctuate for a team with little consistency of its own.
"I think he's frustrated and I don't blame him because he practices hard," Turgeon said. "I was in a meeting with one of my assistants and him [Thursday] and another guy was with him Wednesday just trying to keep him focused."
Cleare is averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 13.2 minutes for the season. Those numbers dip to 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.6 minutes in conference play.
Some of the center's issues are foul trouble. And some of it is Turgeon's decision to keep him solely at the five, a presumably short-term limit on his versatility since Alex Len takes most of the minutes at that spot.
Yet by all accounts, Cleare remains a dogged practice player in his first year at Maryland.
"I feel like Shaq is that player, that kid who regardless if you curse him out or tell him he's the greatest player on earth, his facial expression and body language is never going to change," forward Dez Wells said. "That's something with him that's never going to change, his willingness to get better. By far he's done the most on this team as far as changing his body. Shaq's upside is really, really high. Once he starts playing on a more consistent basis, I feel like the sky's the limit for him."
At 6-foot-9 and 265 pounds, there's little doubt Cleare has the frame to be an effective, even high-level, college player in time.
The question is when that time's coming as the Terps (18-8, 6-7 ACC) welcome Clemson to Comcast Center on Saturday. The Tigers feature a big, athletic front line of Devin Booker, Milton Jennings and K.J. McDaniels.
"It's a good matchup for Shaq," Turgeon said. "Hopefully, he can play well and we can keep him in there. The thing about Shaq is that it's so hard as a freshman. He's improved so much overall. Now, is he consistently improved in games? No. But he gives us good minutes. His time's coming. I don't know when, but his time is coming. He'll be much more prepared for it because he's worked so hard and gotten so much. He just hasn't gotten the playing time to become a better game player."
--- Patrick Stevens