Clingan and Rosa excited about continuing journey to UConn
Mohegan — Their friendship dates back long before becoming the state's top high school athletes in their respective sports.
Donovan Clingan and Victor Rosa, two Bristol Central standouts who both will continue their athletic careers at UConn next season, have been by each other's side for every step of their journey.
"We've been friends since elementary school," Rosa said Monday night after playing in the inaugural Day Holiday Classic at the Mohegan Sun Arena. "We actually started off on the T-ball field. Ever since, we've been playing sports together and going to school together as well."
Clingan and Rosa are closing out their playing days together on the basketball court, competing for the state's No. 1 ranked high school basketball team.
They'd want it no other way.
"We push each other, on and off the floor," Clingan said. "We're always cracking jokes and trying to get each other better, whether it's going to work out together for like an hour a night. It's just the little things to help each other get better."
Both athletes were named winners of the prestigious Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2021 in their respective sports.
The towering 7-foot-1 Clingan is the center of attention on the court.
In Monday's impressive 74-59 win over No. 3 East Catholic, Clingan showed off his wide range of skills while finishing with 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks despite battling foul trouble and a double-teaming defense. He set the school's career rebounding record with 1,033, passing the mark set by his mother, Stacey, who died of breast cancer in 2018.
Rosa stars on the football field.
During the fall, the 5-11, 187-pound Rosa rushed for 2,728 yards, threw for 849 yards and scored 42 touchdowns.
The pair share several things in common, according to Rosa.
"We're both competitive and we both love each other's sports," Rosa said. "He works his butt off in basketball and I work my butt off in football. And we're both accomplishing our dreams and it's a blessing that we are."
Rosa kept his commitment to UConn despite a coaching change, with Jim Mora being hired to take over the program last month.
Clingan's happy that he'll be able to share his college experience with Rosa.
"Just having a best friend like that being on the same campus as me, it means a lot to me," Clingan said. "He thought about switching and going to a different school. I told him, stay in your hometown, make a name for yourself and build your brand, that's big.
"I remember our kindergarten days, he was always strong. Every day, he's spent hours in the gym working to get better. I've watched him grow and I couldn't be prouder of him."
The pressure will be on both Clingan and Rosa once they arrive in Storrs.
The spotlight burns hotter for in-state players competing at the state university. Expectations will be high, maybe even unrealistic.
UConn basketball Dan Hurley believes Clingan can handle the pressure.
"The expectations for Donovan are going to be super high, as they are for any player or coach that comes here," Hurley said recently. "We all support each other dealing with the outside noise and expectations. But he's wired for it. He embraces that. He likes the attention. He wants all eyes on him. That's something you do evaluate about a young man because you do have to be able to handle it."
Like they've done for nearly their entire lives, Clingan and Rosa will help each other negotiate the winding road ahead.
They both welcome the challenge.
"He's going to go and do his thing in basketball and I'm going to do my thing in football," Rosa said. "Hopefully, I can help be a factor in helping to turn the UConn football program around and get it to where basketball is looked at."