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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    UConn’s Donovan Clingan declares for the 2024 NBA Draft

    UConn's Donovan Clingan looks to pass the ball during the second half of a first-round college basketball game against Stetson in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
    UConn center Donovan Clingan (32) is guarded by Seton Hall center Jaden Bediako (15) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    UConn sophomore Donovan Clingan is forgoing his remaining college eligibility to pursue a lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.

    A former Bristol Central High School standout, Clingan announced Friday, just days after helping the Huskies complete an historic season by repeating as national champions, that he’s entering his name into the 2024 NBA Draft.

    He’s projected to be a lottery pick by some mock drafts.

    “First and foremost, BACK TO BACK National Championships is legendary!” Clingan wrote in an Instagram post. “These past two years have exceeded all my dreams and expectations. I will be forever grateful for the memories created with all my brothers, and I’ll cherish every moment forever!”

    Clingan went on to thank his family and close friends for supporting him during his journey as well as the UConn coaching staff for “believing in a kid from Connecticut and giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. You have all changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful for the impact that you’ve had on me. I love you guys.”

    Then he mentioned his mother Stacey, who passed away six years ago. He honors his mother by wearing her uniform number (32) that she had as a player at the University of Maine.

    “To my Mom, my biggest inspiration, I’ll continue to work my hardest to make you proud!”

    Coach Dan Hurley often referred to Clingan, a 7-foot-2 center, as one of the most impactful players in the country because of his terrific play on both ends of the courts.

    In his second season playing for the Huskies, first as a full-time starter, Clingan averaged career bests in points (13.0), rebounds (7.4) and blocks (2.5). He led the team in the two latter categories.

    Clingan played his best basketball during UConn’s national championship run and earned a spot on the Final Four all-tournament team. He finished with 18 points, five rebounds and four blocks in an 86-72 win over Alabama in the national semifinals and had 11 points, five rebounds and a block in a 75-60 win over Purdue in the national championship game.

    He lived up to his nickname, “Cling Kong.”

    “He’s a happy, happy giant, but he is also a dog,” Hurley said during the tournament run. “Don’t let the smile fool you. And I think the biggest thing with him, which is different than a lot of centers, is he loves to play basketball. He loves sports, and he loves to compete. And the guy is alive with a huge personality.

    “... He’s brought so much energy to our locker room and confidence. The big guy has been awesome.”

    In Clingan’s two seasons, the Huskies went 68-11 overall, won the 2023-24 Big East regular season and tournament titles and two national championships.

    Freshman guard Stephon Castle also is projected to be a high first round draft pick, but he’s yet to announce his plans for the future.

    g.keefe@theday.com

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