One of the biggest keys for the Longhorns this season will be finding a way to utilize Shaquille Cleare and Cameron Ridley

Texas will be better for it if Shaka Smart can figure out the best way to use both big men.

Heights and weights aren’t listed on the Longhorns roster on their official website yet. So, in the meantime, we’ll just label junior forward Shaquille Cleare as “Massive.”

During Texas Media Day last season Cameron Ridley said the Maryland transfer was far and away the strongest guy on the team. And that’s coming from a guy that was listed at 6-foot-9 and 285 pounds a season ago.

For the record, Cleare [Pronounced “Clair”] was listed at 6-8 and 290 last season.

Both guys fit that “massive” label but the biggest question surrounding them heading into the 2015-16 season is whether or not both can turn into massive parts of this team.

Neither player necessarily fits the roll of what Shaka Smart would recruit in a big man.

Smart likes bigs that can run and space the floor with their jump shot. Both of these guys are better suited as back to the basket post players, though Cleare is more than a capable shooter.

But it remains to be seen how much they’ll factor into this “havoc” system that involves a lot of high-paced sprinting up-and-down the court.

Figuring out how to best utilize these two will be one of Smart’s biggest tasks.

“Shaq and Cam are fitting in well,” he said. “One thing that’s really important is our style of play is not going to be identical to what you’ve seen from our teams in the past. It certainly won’t be identical to what you’ve seen here in the past. It will be the 2015-16 version of Texas and we are trying to do what we do, make what we do fit around what we have.”

Cleare, who was a high school teammate of UT point guard Isaiah Taylor’s during Cleare’s senior season at Houston’s The Village School, transferred in from Maryland last season and sat out the entire season due to NCAA transfer rules. He started 20 games as a sophomore for the Terps and averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.  

From the sounds of it, Smart wants Cleare to be an enforcer in the paint.

“We want Shaq to be nasty,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of nice guys on our team right now, and that’s a great thing off the court. But we need to get a little tougher, nastier on the court. Sometimes that’s the difference in hotly contested games. Shaq can bring some of that. He has an edge to him and we want to cultivate that.”

That toughness won’t do much good if Cleare is on the bench with foul trouble though, and that could be an issue with some new rule changes.

“One big point of emphasis with officials is calling hand checks,” Smart said. “That’s something where we are going to have to strike that balance because at VCU we were always ultra aggressive guarding the ball and we have some guys here that can do that. But we don’t want one of our better players sitting next to me on the sidelines with two quick fouls and 10 minutes left in the first half.”

Smart continued: “There’s a fine line between being tough and mean, and fouling out. We have to find that balance and not just with Shaq.”

All told, Smart seems optimistic about the direction of Clear, Ridley and the rest of his returning big men [Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh].

“All four of the bigs have done some good things in the preseason so far,” he said. “I think they have a level of energy that is getting better and better. It’s not at the level we want. We need them to make more multiple effort plays, but they are getting better. “


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