BRISTOL - Coaching a highly touted prospect often brings extra attention, but Bristol Central boysâ€™ basketball coach Tim Barrette has never experienced anything like coaching 7-foot sophomore Donovan Clingan.
Entering his second season with the Rams, Clingan has already garnered attention for multiple major collegiate programs including Syracuse, UConn, Georgetown, Providence and UMass.
â€śWe havenâ€™t had a player in Bristol this highly recruited,â€ť Barrette said. â€śHis size makes him stand out. Iâ€™ve had some guys that have had Division I looks, but at the same time never with the same intensity that these have come in at.â€ť
Despite all of the extra focus being put on him and his team, Clingan is focusing his attention on the season ahead of him and progressing his game.
â€śI donâ€™t let [the recruiting] get to my head too much and I just try to do what I do on the court,â€ť Clingan said. â€śI would say itâ€™s stressful because I donâ€™t plan on deciding where I want to go anytime soon so Iâ€™m just trying to win games and have fun and enjoy high school basketball while I have it.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s been humble and thatâ€™s one thing weâ€™ve worked on in this whole thing is staying grounded,â€ť Barrette said. â€śHe still has a lot to improve on. He knows he still has to work [and] itâ€™s not going to come easy. Yes, the offers are great and theyâ€™re great that theyâ€™re there, but he knows he still has to work if he wants to be the best player he possibly can be at the next level. So he stayed humble and continues to work and continues to be coachable and thatâ€™s the key.â€ť
Clingan is looking to build off of a freshman season in which he averaged 22.8 points, 18.2 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game. After struggling to adjust to the intensity of varsity basketball at first, he continued to improve over the year and capped off the season with 36 points and 22 rebounds in the Ramsâ€™ loss to New Millford in the first round of the Division III state tournament.
â€śFrom last season, playing as a 14-year-old at the varsity level early in the preseason he got beat up pretty good by a lot of seniors, [got] pushed around,â€ť Barrette said. â€śIt was a struggle a little bit early on and then he started to understand how to play the game and understand what varsity basketball was all about.â€ť
Central ended up going 8-12 in the regular season last year and qualified as the 23rd seed in the postseason. With Clinganâ€™s skillset and confidence growing constantly he, Barrette and the rest of the team have much higher expectations for what they can accomplish in the next three years.
Clingan will enter this season with a new and improved shooting touch he did not have last year. Adding the ability to stretch the floor will make him and the rest of the Rams difficult to defend.
â€śIâ€™m trying to get my release higher,â€ť Clingan said. â€śNow there arenâ€™t that many people who are as tall as me and can block my shot, but once I get to the college level itâ€™s going to be helpful to have a higher release when I play against kids that are my height.â€ť
Clingan said he also widened his arsenal of post moves beyond what he had last year. He spent his summer playing for the Massachusetts-based AAU program Team Spartans and said he gained experience from playing against the top competition of his age group.
â€śHis game has expanded,â€ť Barrette said. â€śHe really shoots the ball well for somebody his size. He really can stretch the floor if you play in because youâ€™d rather have him shoot from the outside [rather than] close to the hoop. Heâ€™s worked very hard at the free throw line to get better because, obviously, he gets fouled a lot. His ability to put the ball on the floor and make great driving moves as well has really made his game very difficult to stop.â€ť
The Rams should be set up for much more success than they had last season because not only is Clinganâ€™s skill set greater than last year, but it is growing quicker than opposing coaches can keep up with.
â€śWe had scrimmage game today and we played Waterbury Career [Academy],â€ť Barrette said. â€śWe played them last year before the state tournament in March and their coach could not believe that was even the same player. He really has worked hard in the weight room and worked hard in the gym on his game and it really has shown at the beginning of this year.â€ť