The larger-than-life center has a ceiling that appears to keep growing higher. PIC: @DonovanClingan on Instagram
UConn hoisted the National Championship trophy on Monday. For the fifth time in just under 25 years, college basketball's crown jewel runs through Storrs, Connecticut.
As always though, basketball fans are quick to criticize what could be a year of significant change for Connecticut next season. Jordan Hawkins recently declared for the NBA Draft. Adama Sanogo's decision on the same fate remains unclear. Joey Calcaterra, dubbed "Joey California" by UConn faithful, used his final year and eligibility and - per David Borges of CT Insider - could be off to Italy or Greece to explore a pro career as a sharpshooter.
But a key piece of the plan for UConn's sustained success is back.
Donovan Clingan, in his larger-than-life 7-foot-2 frame, announced Saturday that he will be returning to the Huskies' program for the 2023-24 season instead of declaring for the NBA Draft. Clingan made an immediate impact for UConn in his freshman campaign, even though he wasn't a routine starter. In just over thirteen minutes-per-game, he averaged 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks each contests. If he played Adama Sanogo's minutes, you can double that hypothetical line...14 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks.
Clingan, who clearly possesses the skills and paint dominance to succeed at any level of basketball, has been attracting attention from NBA scouts since his high school career at Bristol Central, less than an hour from UConn's main campus. But if you heard the way him and his team have been speaking about the Huskies' future, this isn't necessarily a surprise. Sealing the deal was this statement in front of the crowd of over 45k at the Championship Parade in Hartford today.
Clingan, per multiple sources, is on the radar of several NBA scouts and general managers. Pundits suggested he may "test the waters," which would've entailed declaring for the draft, getting some feedback, and returning to UConn to work on specific aspects of his game. But instead, he took a bet on other key pieces returning, four-star recruits entering the scene, and Dan Hurley's aptitude for national success.
Clingan, who averaged 27.3 points, 17.2 rebounds, and 5.8 blocks per game in his senior year of high school in Bristol, has the offensive and defensive prowess to have a monster year in 2023-24.
Donovan Clingan's decision to stay at UConn is a win-win situation for both parties. The Huskies get to hang onto one of the most high-potential players in the game for at least another year, while Clingan can continue to hone his skills to become NBA Draft-ready under the tutelage of Dan Hurley.
It's early, but UConn can expect to be a formidable force in November & beyond.