Longhorns post Shaquille Cleare has been a part of the Texas program for over a year now, but he is still in a bit of an adjustment phase.
He had to sit out last season after transferring in from Maryland so he still feels like he’s getting a feel for his teammates.
While those inside the program weren’t necessarily fond of the trip to Shanghai, it did present the program an opportunity to grow closer to one another, which is one of the main positives Cleare is taking from the trip despite UT’s 77-71 loss to Washington.
“China was the first time I really got to gel with my team,” he said. “It was interesting. It was my time out there in almost two years but it was pretty good. I got a feel for all my guys. We did some good things, we didn’t do some good things. It was great though because we got an opportunity to see who we really are as a team.”
It gave Cleare a chance to get up-and-down the court as well. It had been a while, really since Texas’ Orange-White scrimmage about a month ago, that he’d been in a game setting.
He was forced to miss Texas’ exhibition against Tarleton State on Nov. 6 due to a root canal.
“The root canal happened on Thursday and then I had to go back on Friday and get another procedure done, which is why I didn’t play in the exhibition,” Cleare said. “It was bothering me a little bit. It got better as the trip went on in China.”
Cleare, like most of his teammates and coaches, is still recovering from the trip. Getting back into a normal sleep schedule has been an issue.
As for issues on the court, he said that the slate had been wiped clean after their disappointing season-opening performance.
The focus of practice this week has centered around defense and doing a better job on the boards; the Huskies out-rebounded UT 62-51.
“We are going to have to do a lot better job rebounding,” he said. “But the way officiating is now you have to be careful how you hit guys. You really have to try not to use your hands as much.”
Cleare picked up three fouls in the first half and ended up only playing 12 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing six rebounds.
The game featured 88 free throw attempts in large part to the new rules being implemented by the NCAA.
Cleare, being a physical player by nature at 6-foot-8 and 285 pounds, is still trying to get used to the new rules and adjust accordingly.
“You get a little timid,” he said. “You start to change your game a little bit because you don’t want to foul. You just try to adjust to the way the refs are calling. Sometimes you ask the refs, “Mr. Ref, what do I need to do?” And he’ll show you little things. If you notice the game is being physical and the refs are letting you play, then you play.”
Being physical, within the rules, is going to be a point of emphasis for the Longhorns on Saturday when it takes on Texas A&M Corpus Christi in a Battle 4 Atlantis Regional game at 7 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center.
“We are going to have to be aggressive on Saturday,” he said. “We have to go get the ball. We don’t really care how we get it, we just have to end up with the ball.”
After TAMUCC the Longhorns will head to the Bahamas to take on Texas A&M on Nov. 25. It will be a return trip home for Cleare, who was born in Nassau, Bahamas on Feb. 19, 1993.
“It’s going to be a pretty cool atmosphere,” Cleare said of going back home. “I got to talk to my parents and family who will get a chance to see me play. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s not a vacation trip. It’s a business trip. We are going down there to win and represent this university.”
But first things first, Texas needs to win on Saturday.