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Maryland basketball has a Cleare chance to improve this season

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Photo - Kelly Kline/Getty Images
Shaquille Cleare has shed weight heading into his freshman season at Maryland.
Kelly Kline/Getty Images Shaquille Cleare has shed weight heading into his freshman season at Maryland.
Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Maryland's Shaquille Cleare got so into his new fitness regimen this summer -- shedding 25 pounds from his 6-foot-9, 290-pound frame -- that coach Mark Turgeon told him cease and desist.

"Coach told me you're getting too small for your position," Cleare said. "He said now you gotta put more muscle on."

Maryland Madness
When » Friday, 7 p.m.
Where » Comcast Center
TV » CSN

At 265 pounds, there's still a lot for Maryland to love about the freshman forward who helps give the Terrapins a new look in Turgeon's second season. In going 17-15 last year, Maryland was often physically overmatched. The only way the Terps could win was with quickness and perimeter play.

But this year with Cleare and 6-8, 260-pound freshman Charles Mitchell, assisting holdovers Alex Len and James Padgett, Maryland is equipped for heavy lifting inside.

The 7-foot-1 Len has even gotten into the act, saying he now weighs 240 pounds thanks to a regimen of five meals a day with a daily target of 5,000 calories. The Terps now resemble the frontcourt-oriented teams Turgeon coached to 97 wins in four seasons at Texas A&M.

"We have tremendous depth on the inside, which we didn't have last year," Turgeon said. "Standing here today compared to standing here a year ago, I feel like we're much further along."

The first chance for Maryland fans to see the Terps will be Friday night at Maryland Madness. Other newcomers Turgeon welcomes include 6-3 senior Logan Aronhalt, a transfer from Albany, who Turgeon called a "big-time shooter," versatile 6-8 freshman wing Jake Layman and 6-1 freshman Seth Allen.

"I don't know what a world-class athlete looks like, but he's close," Turgeon said of Allen, who will compete for time at point guard with Pe'Shon Howard and Nick Faust.

Amid the optimism that surrounds media day, there was one nagging question. Who will provide the offense? With ACC scoring leader Terrell Stoglin (21.6 points per game) gone, in addition to graduated Sean Mosley (10.2 ppg), there is a major void.

Turgeon hopes it will be filled by Xavier transfer Dez Wells, an explosive 6-5 sophomore. But the Maryland coach admitted that Wells' attempt to receive a waiver to play this season is in limbo and will require more leg work.

That leaves blossoming 6-6 sophomore Nick Faust as the top option. Turgeon said Faust is up to 205 pounds, and his knuckleball jump shot is much improved. Faust showed promise as a scorer late last year, emerging from the shadow of Stoglin.

"Everyone puts their hands on the ball before the shot goes up," Faust said poignantly of the difference in the offense this year without the shoot-first Stoglin.

Maryland will have a Nov. 2 exhibition against Indiana (Pa.), then open a week a later in Brooklyn, N.Y., against defending national champion Kentucky. While the offense might need time to gel, it's not unreasonable to expect the taller, wider, longer and deeper Terps to be improved on defense, especially considering the no-nonsense mindset of Cleare.

"Physical play down low, doing all the dirty work," Cleare said when asked his role. "Whatever Turgeon needs me to do this year, I'm willing to do it."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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