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UConn Men's Basketball

As Clingan declares and others ponder, Hurley confirms his UConn future

April 14, 2024

The UConn men’s basketball team and tens of thousands of its biggest supporters descended upon downtown Hartford Saturday morning to celebrate a national championship for the second year in a row.

After drawing around 45,000 to last year’s parade, the Husky supporters were 60,000 strong this year. At the podium, sophomore center Donovan Clingan addressed the crowd after his recent announcement that he’d be declaring for the NBA Draft.

“I have a chance to be a top-15, top-20 pick,” Clingan told the media after the parade. “Just wanted to get that off my chest and be able to now go focus on the next goal.”

The young man is being modest here – he could go as high as No. 1.

Hurley said in his guidance to players he tries to be as transparent as possible about their prospects. To him, Clingan’s situation was “clear-cut,” as he’s likely to be “a top-five pick.”

“I told coach I wanted to stay. He said I couldn’t,” Clingan joked.

Alex Karaban and Hassan Diarra are among the underclassmen who could return, but neither would confirm their plans. Karaban has met with the coaching staff a couple of times but plans to take his time on the decision.

While Hurley called Karaban a “clearly draftable prospect,” the Massachusetts native has a lot going for him should he return.

“To go for a three-peat, that’s obviously a huge bonus, [and] my role would probably increase,” Karaban said. He’ll also have the chance to earn his degree if he stays for one more season.

Hurley at least has made his future intentions clear: he’s staying put. Despite the overtures of Kentucky, the Jersey City native is staying in Storrs. He said he plans to stay for a while, and that only the NBA could “maybe” lure him away. So far it seems like his coaching staff is intact as well.

“I’m not gonna coach anywhere else in college,” Hurley said. “Unless UConn doesn’t want me.”

Rebuilding with purpose

The Huskies have a big summer ahead of them, as Hurley has made no indications of resting on his laurels to rebuild after winning two straight championships. He’s already saying “three-peat” and no doubt workshopping slogans for the push for the program’s seventh title.

“We’re starting to work on that right now,” Hurley said. “In between the parades and White House trips and all the cool stuff, you get down to constructing the roster so that this team resembles these last couple of teams.”

The staff is hard at work on the recruiting trail as they will need to be aggressive in the transfer market to replace two departing seniors and one early draft entrant, possibly more. Michigan transfer forward Tarris Reed made an official visit that included a trip to Hartford on Saturday. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 9.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Wolverines last year and was seen taking photos at the parade.

“The way that we play basketball, people love that. The style of offense, the style of defense, the energy and the culture, the championships, the players going to the NBA, the way we’re doing it,” are all enticing elements of the program in recruiting conversations, Hurley said. 

But wait, there’s more.

“What you have the chance to go for next year, if you’re a transfer and there’s an opportunity to have a role on this team, you’re going for UCLA level.”

Expect multiple experienced additions to enter the fold, similar to the 2022 offseason. The main difference will be that Hurley and the Huskies have a much stronger vantage point as a proven haven for talented hoopers who want to win.

The benefit of waiting for a culture to build and develop is that it becomes the best possible recruiting chip, better than any facilities, banners, or NIL money, even though UConn is plenty strong in all three of those areas as well.

It takes more than money, though, just look at Kentucky’s relative lack of recent success compared to its recruiting results, or the schools like Miami that load up on free agents to be the core of their roster.

“We clearly have all the resources in place,” Hurley said. “A lot of schools look at production and numbers and talent. You’re not putting together an all-star team, you’re putting together a team that’s gotta be able to function.”

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