Texas Longhorns senior center Shaquille Cleare is one of only two seniors on this year’s squad, and now the 6’8” Andros native, who spent the majority of last season as a role player off the bench, will now be asked to take on a leadership both on and off the court for his team. “It’s going to be an interesting year,” he said. “One thing I like about this group that came in, this group competes at a high level.
“People think this is a rebuilding stage for Texas basketball. No, it’s a continuation of Texas basketball and we’re going to continue grow.” Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart concurred with Cleare’s sentiments about the squad not being in a rebuilding state.
“I don’t really like the word rebuilding,” he said. “Because that makes it sound like you took everything and threw it in the trash and now you’re starting from scratch.”
Cleare helped the Longhorns finish with a 20-13 win/loss record last season. The Longhorns made it to the National Collegiate Athletic (NCAA) Tournament, but suffered a tough 75-72 loss to Northern Iowa in the opening round.
Sophomore forward Kerwin Roach at the Longhorns media day last week said that he expects this year’s team to be just as good or surpass what last year’s team did.
“I think we can be top three in our league. I really think so,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to be up and rolling around conference time.”
The Longhorns begin their season ranked No. 22 in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll released yesterday morning. The Longhorns lost seven scholarship players from last year’s team. Five seniors graduated, guard Isaiah Taylor left early to play professional basketball and Jordan Barnett transferred out midseason.
Last season Cleare averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in just over 12 minutes per game.