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UConn Men's Basketball

Clingan, Castle soaring up NBA draft boards

April 15, 2024

While UConn nation basks in the glow of consecutive national championships, sophomore center Donovan Clingan is getting ready for a new challenge, and some teammates may be joining him.

The big man from Bristol is soaring up mock drafts after the NCAA Tournament, having declared for the NBA Draft on Friday.

“He accomplished everything he can here and he’s gonna be a top-five pick in the draft,” head coach Dan Hurley said on Saturday after the team’s championship parade.

USA Today and Bleacher Report have Clingan going sixth overall, CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone has him fifth, while NBA Draft Room and The Ringer have him third. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said he is absolutely in the conversation to be the first overall pick, calling him “as fundamentally sound of a big man... as you’ve seen in the draft.”

Stephon Castle has also seen his stock rise, entering the top 10 in many mocks after being in more of the 15-25 range throughout the season.

USA Today has him going ninth overall, has him 11th, CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish has him 10th, Bleacher Report and NBA Draft Room have him fifth, and The Ringer has him at No. 1 overall, which would be the earliest a Husky has been picked.

“I’ve still got a lot of conversations to have,” said Castle, who has yet to officially announce his future plans. “It’s a new process for me and my family so we’re just taking it slow, taking it step by step.”

The dynamic freshman was named the Big East Freshman of the Year and earned national notoriety for his defensive prowess after shutting down some of the best scorers in the country throughout the season. He finished averaging 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, leading the Huskies with 21 points in their Final Four win over Alabama.

“I feel like I matured a lot this year and I learned a lot,” Castle said. “I was blessed to be coached by a great coach, if I do decide to go I think I’ll be in a great situation and I’ll be able to attack wherever I go.”

His coach seemed optimistic about the Georgia native’s prospects.

“The intel is pretty consensus that that’s what a lottery pick looks like,” Hurley said.

“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.”

Those aren’t the only Huskies on the NBA radar. Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer will both get a shot. They’re mostly appearing in the 2nd round of mock drafts.

CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone has Newton going 30th, has him going 42nd, and NBA Draft Room has him 44th, while Bleacher Report has him 51st. Cam Spencer is projected to be picked 43rd by and Bleacher Report has him 56th. Both have exhausted their collegiate eligibility (reportedly).

Alex Karaban has a bit of a decision to make. He isn’t a first-round lock but could vault into that status after the NBA Combine and team workouts.

“He’s clearly a draftable NBA prospect,” Hurley said of the redshirt sophomore. “[If] you’re going to be a clear-cut consensus first-round pick and you feel like you’re mature enough emotionally…I think you’ve got a responsibility to really consider going.”

“If not…stay in college. The second round is a tough spot,” Hurley said, also invoking NIL, “it’s better to be in college than on a two-way.”

Karaban has had a chance to mull his decision with the coaching staff, current teammates, and former teammate Andre Jackson as well, he said. It appears most likely he will go through the draft process while maintaining eligibility and see what kind of response he gets from the NBA scouts.

Right now, has Karaban at 35th overall. Bleacher Report has him 54th overall. 

Should he stay at UConn, Karaban has noted the likely increase in his on-court role as well as the opportunity to earn his degree. As Hurley explained, the NIL offer could also be a significant factor in his retention compared to the risk of a second-round draft entry.

Plus, if Karban stays and this coaching staff builds a team around his talents, the chances of a three-peat increase dramatically. That would mean history and a year as “the man” to really boost his profile. He was nearly a 50/40/90 player in conference play and has been a starter on two national championship teams, but perhaps there is more for him to accomplish.

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