VYPE Houston — January 2011
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Cleare The Way For Shaq
Ahmard Vital

Anytime you hear the name Shaquille in reference to the basketball hardwood, many will immediately refer to the 7-foot-1 big man who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft out of Louisiana State University named Shaquille O’Neal.

For the visual purposes, keep that image of the future Hall of Famer in your head while we fast forward to the 2010-2011 basketball season. Right here in the Greater Houston area, The Village School program has its own Shaq, who will be heading into his junior season. Yes, Shaquille Cleare will be the center of attention for his team as they look to make some noise and gain some exposure heading into their third year of competitive varsity play.

Starting in his third season at The Village School, Cleare has already been pegged as one of the top center prospects in the United States. But what is even more interesting is how he ended up in the states in the first place. A native of Nassau, The Bahamas, Cleare was a part of a program that works with students who want to make the move to America. Initially, that did not work out and Cleare made his way back to Nassau.

Then some unexpected events occurred that would change the entire landscape for Cleare and The Village School.

“He (Cleare) was part of our program, but after couple of months he returned home,” Harvey said. “Our president and principal convinced him to return. That was a blessing for us.”

That was only three years ago and the rest is history. Coming in as a freshman, Harvey described Cleare as a “6-foot-7, 255-pound raw athlete who looked chubby.” It’s amazing how things have changed.

“I have seen Cleare blossom over the years. Now, I see him as a 6-foot-9, 280-pound player whose skills are off the charts,” Harvey said. “He has turned into a great player, who is the first huge athlete we have had here at The Village School.”

With all that was said, don’t make the mistake in thinking that Cleare is just another tall, talented kid who can walk out on to the basketball court and just dominate.

According to Harvey, what makes him one of the top players in the country is his ability to make his teammates elevate to a higher level of play. With The Village School being still new to the sports scene playing an independent schedule, Harvey stated that the program has not yet pulled in a number of elite-level athletes. That starts with Cleare.

There is one other quality that moves Cleare to that elite status that has nothing to do with his inherited talent.

“For one, I have never seen a kid with the type of work ethic he has,” Harvey said. “You know when it comes to doing the extra work, he is self-motivated. He can also shoot very well for his size and we use him as a point-center sometimes.”

That becomes a major selling point to college coaches who are looking for Cleare to be on their roster in a couple of years. And by the way, there is a long line of coaches in the mix as well. Harvey said that when it was open for coaches to be able to come by practices, there was a constant rotation of coaches from all of the major conferences.

Programs like Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Arizona, Marquette, Kansas and Oklahoma State are only a few of the programs in the running for the Cleare’s talents. And while his offer list continues to grow by the hour, Harvey was clear in stating that collecting offers was not what his star player is trying to do. But, having options is a great thing.

“There were at least five coaches here for practice every day. One day, there were 10 coaches from major programs here checking him out,” Harvey said. “But even with all of this, Cleare is a humble kid. He does not do a lot of talking and bragging. He just goes out and makes plays for us. He is like the poster boy for our school.”

Harvey said that what has impressed the college coaches the most is his skills for a big man. Last season, according to Harvey, Cleare averaged 20 points per game, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. Look for those numbers to improve this season, especially in the assist category.

Sure the original Shaq, who now plays for the Boston Celtics was quite a dominant force in his prime, but what Cleare brings is some of that, plus a smooth passing ability that has impressed a number of recruiters in recent months. Harvey said that his shooting has also improved, so much that Cleare can out shoot some Village School guards on a given day.

“Of course, I loved how Shaquille O’Neal played,” Cleare said. “But right now, I love Blake Griffin and how physical he is. I’m pretty wide open right now with my recruiting and just love hanging with my teammates.”

As for a decision, Harvey said that Cleare might commit to a program this upcoming summer. Whatever program lands the bigman, they will love his game as much as his name.