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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Decisions ahead for national championship winning UConn men’s basketball team

    UConn players ride on a double decker bus Saturday in Hartford during a parade to celebrate the team's NCAA men’s college basketball championship. The Huskies won their second title in a row Monday in Glendale, Ariz., dispatching Purdue. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)
    UConn's Donovan Clingan, middle, holds up the championship trophy as he stands with coaches and teammates during a parade Saturday in Hartford to celebrate the team's NCAA men’s college basketball championship. Clingan, a Connecticut native, announced Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA Draft. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)
    UConn men’s basketball players ride on a double decker bus during a parade Saturday in Hartford to celebrate their second straight national championship. More than 60,000 fans attended the parade. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)
    UConn's Tristen Newton smiles during a parade to celebrate the team's national championship. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

    Hartford — Parade day means decision day is approaching for several members of the national championship-winning UConn men’s basketball team.

    Approximately 60,000 fans showed up to salute the Huskies on Saturday on the streets of Hartford.

    Sophomore Donovan Clingan already announced his intentions, declaring Friday that he’s entering his name in the 2024 NBA Draft.

    At least three other players, including two starters, have decisions to make about their future.

    Coach Dan Hurley left no doubt about his status a few days ago when he showed no interest in Kentucky’s attempt to lure him to coach the Wildcats.

    “I’m not going to coach anywhere else in college,” said Hurley, who received a rousing cheer after bringing up going for the three-peat next year during his short speech to the crowd outside the XL Center.

    While Hurley will definitely be back next season, Alex Karaban, Stephon Castle and Hassan Diarra had not made any firm decisions as of Saturday. Other players could possibly enter the transfer portal.

    So it’s expected to be a crazy busy offseason for the Huskies.

    “For every player, it’s a different situation,” Hurley said. “Some are clear cut like Donovan’s situation. He accomplished everything he can here and he’s going to be a top-five pick in the draft. He came back and did exactly what he came back for.

    “... Some other players that have gotta make decisions, it’s more complex. Then you also have players in the program, does your vision line up with their vision relative to what we’re trying to accomplish next year?”

    Let’s start with Karaban, a redshirt sophomore and starter on the back-to-back national championship teams.

    Karaban is torn about what to do, return for another season or pursue his NBA dream. He also could keep his options open and go through the predraft process before deciding.

    “I’m still thinking about it,” Karaban said. “I haven’t decided yet. … I’ve been talking to coach Hurley, (assistant) coach Murray, my parents and my agent a lot. It’s definitely been weighing on me a lot. Some days, I’m leaning toward one way. Other days, I’m leaning the other way.

    “... I just want to set myself up for the best position that I can for my future. At the same time, I have so much love for this school and program. It’s going to be the toughest decision that I’ve had to make.”

    Karaban’s draft status will be a factor in his choice. He’s projected to be a second-round pick in several mock drafts.

    “He’s clearly a draftable NBA prospect,” Hurley said. “For most of these players now, with NIL, unless you’re going to be a clear-cut, consensus first-round pick and you feel like you’re mature enough emotionally to go into those locker rooms, I think you’ve got a responsibility to really consider going.

    “But, if you’re not going to be a consensus first-round pick, you stay in college. Second round is a tough spot. Up through those mid-30s, there’s no more guaranteed contracts. It’s better to be in college than on a two-way contract, in my opinion.”

    Signs point toward Castle, one of the best freshmen in the country last season, leaving. He’s considered almost a lock to be a lottery pick.

    Castle didn’t give any hints Saturday about his future path.

    “It’s a new process for me and my family, so we’re taking it slow, taking it step by step,” Castle said. “I have a lot of time, so I’m just not rushing anything right now. It’s always good to have an option.”

    Hurley plans to meet with Castle in the near future.

    “Some of it is in his control and some of it is out of his control,” Hurley said. “... The intel is pretty consensus that that’s what a lottery pick looks like. We’ll meet with him early next week. For me, he had the best freshman year of anyone in the country because of how the entire season played out.”

    Diarra, a key reserve guard and valuable leader on the two national championship teams, has one year of eligibility remaining.

    Where he spends next season is still up in the air.

    “I’m not sure yet,” Diarra said. “I’m still trying to figure it out. We’ll see.”

    Hurley said this about Diarra: “What he envisions for himself next year in terms of role has got to be aligned with what ours is. … We’re just going to tell the truth with players about where we see them. But we’d like to return as many of the players as we can.”

    Backcourt starters Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer, who’ve used up their eligibility, definitely wore the UConn uniform for the last time. They both will pursue professional playing careers.

    “I’ll try to play professionally and go to the NBA, hopefully,” Spencer said. “I wish I had more time at UConn, for sure. But I’ll start training for the (draft) combine and NBA Draft.”

    News and notes

    UConn recruiting target Tarris Reed Jr, a 6-foot-10, 265-pound forward, attended the parade while on a visit. He entered the transfer portal after averaging 9.0 points and 7.2 rebounds as a sophomore last season for Michigan. … Clingan on his decision to turn pro: “I just realized the point I’m at, everything I’ve done and the opportunity that’s in front of me. I have a chance to be a top-15, top-20 pick.” … Diarra, a two-time national title winner, on the parade: “It was amazing, man. A lot of people came out. Just truly, truly, truly a blessing.” … Much to his surprise, Newton was inducted into the Huskies of Honor on Tuesday night during the welcome home rally at Gampel Pavilion. “I didn’t know when they were doing that. That was crazy and I was surprised and I’m just thankful for that.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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