Mark Turgeon expects a "more complete" Terps team
COLLEGE PARK--The story starts out by sounding like a pitch for a new Tuesday-night sitcom.
They’re both 6-8, 260 pounds. They’re roommates in college, stuffed into a dorm fit for two people half their size. One is from Georgia. The other is from the Bahamas.
One is stoic and reserved with a deep, booming voice. The other is a fun-loving, undersized center with a raspy tone. But now they’re buddied up to replace the NBA Draft’s No. 5 overall pick.
Flash to one running around with a small plastic cone in his hand at media day, trying to catch a bird on the loose in Comcast Center. Cut to the cliched stare from the other directly into the camera.
“That’s my best friend, basically my brother,” says one. “Wherever you see Chuck, you’re going to see me. Wherever you see me, you’re going to see Chuck. I’m stuck with Chuck.”
Sophomores Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare star in, “Stuck with Chuck,” coming this fall. Check your local listings.
Ok, maybe that can’t happen just yet--foiled by that dang NCAA again--but the basis for that sure-fire hypothetical hit is where Maryland stands in its front court this season.
With the departure of Alex Len to the NBA, Mitchell and Cleare are coach Mark Turgeon’s two biggest assets with whom he hopes to fill the void in the paint left by the 7-1 Ukrainian.
“We’re really tall across the board. We’re really tall,” Turgeon said at the team’s media day. “I think we’ve been a great rebounding team. Not a good one, but a great one.
“If we threw it up today, had a game, Shaq would be our starting center. We’ll try to have a big guy on the floor for most of the game and if not, depending on certain situations, Charles and Shaq might start together. We don’t know because it’s so early.”
And Turgeon is right about the height and versatility.
Theoretically, Maryland could put a lineup on the floor with no player shorter than 6-4 if Roddy Peter plays point guard, Dez Wells slots in at shooting guard, then Turgeon finds any arrangement of his tall front court pieces including Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz, Nick Faust, Mitchell, or Cleare.
Cleare is returning to full strength after lingering hamstring and back issues kept him out for close to four months of the offseason. He did not play in Maryland’s August trip to the Bahamas, though he was able to travel with the team and stay behind to visit family once the team left.
Turgeon now calls Cleare “pretty healthy” and he has been participating fully in practice, practices that Cleare says he needed to be fully healthy to even think about competing in.
“We get after it,” Cleare said. “You’re going to get shoved, you’re going to get pushed, you’re going to get bit, you’re going to be spit on, there’s going to be blood. But at the end of the day, we still love one another.”
Mitchell says last year’s intensity has carried over to this team.
“Alex would hate being scored on,” Mitchell said. “So if I came down and scored on him a couple times, he’d get this look in his eyes like he’d try to kill me the rest of the practice. It was fun, just somebody to battle with.
“It’s the same thing this year with Shaq.”
Mitchell, to his credit, says he has dropped a significant amount of fat and added muscle in its place, adding, “I just feel way better than I’ve ever felt.”
And Maryland will need an improved explosiveness from him.
Without Len as a defensive backstop, Turgeon has emphasized more on-ball pressure defensively, along with more rotations and help defense.
Neither Cleare nor Mitchell is a shot-blocker like Len was, but the hope is that the Terrapins can force misses and end possessions quickly by rebounding a high percentage of those misses.
“I don’t have to come in here and score 1,000 points, block 1,000 shots, 1,000 rebounds,” Cleare said. “Getting the rebounds when it matters. Defend when it matters. Get points when it matters.”
Turgeon left the possibility of the two playing in tandem open as well, which would put the two in a situation with which they’re not unfamiliar.
Standing side by side.
“We’re always around each other,” Mitchell said. “I know his “do’s and don’ts” of how to talk to him, so it’s like a best friend situation.”
Best friends, huh?
“Chuck is the loudest person on campus. He’s always making noise,” Cleare said. “I’ll be like, “Chuck, shut up!” And he’ll be like, “You shut up! Alright, whatever.”
A new episode of “Stuck with Chuck” airs Friday when Mitchell and Cleare take the floor at Cole Field House for Maryland’s “Midnight Madness” festivities.