BRISTOL - This summer is set to be a busy one for Bristol Centralâ€™s Donovan Clingan.
The seven-foot-tall rising senior, who wants to have his collegiate basketball home chosen by the end of this fall, will spend many of the weekends this summer visiting the eight schools he is deciding between. But before he stepped on a college campus, his summer vacation started by receiving the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year award and being named one of the three finalists for the national award.
While the class of 2021â€™s top-ranked recruit and Gonzaga-commit Chet Holmgren took home the national award, being named the best player in Connecticut still comes with plenty of perks for Clingan. Most importantly to him, he was able to make a $1000 donation to the Bristol Boys and Girls Club where he volunteers.
â€śWhen I started playing basketball that was the first place I started playing,â€ť Clingan said. â€śThatâ€™s where I learned how to play basketball and they were always good to me and always helped me out and I just wanted to give back to them.â€ť
Representing Bristol is always in the front of Clinganâ€™s mind, which is one of the primary reasons heâ€™s remained at Bristol Central and rejected the slew of offers to enroll at one of the many prep schools in the state. A decision that garnered criticism because of the exposure the prep circuit is expected to create, Clingan quieted the noise and proved he is exactly where he belongs.
â€śA lot of the time these prep stars get a lot of the attention because of the competition level that they play against, but I thought Donovan this year was so dominant,â€ť Central head coach Tim Barrette said. â€śIt didnâ€™t matter if he was prep or he was public, his performance spoke for itself.â€ť
Clingan led Central to a 15-0 record in his junior season, which capped off with a CCC Championship and being ranked as the best team in the state according to the GameTime CT poll. He averaged 27.3 points, 17.2 rebounds, 5.8 blocks and 3.1 assists over this run and took down three of the other top-five teams in the state in consecutive games to earn the conference title, building a resume few in the country can compete with.
â€śThe Gatorade player of the year is the elite of the elite awards given out to high school basketball players,â€ť Barrette said. â€śMost kids growing up, thatâ€™s their dream to be nominated or even named Gatorade player of the year. For him to be named Gatorade player of the year as a junior and be a finalist, one of the final three for the national Gatorade player of the year, I think that speaks volumes to the season he had this year.â€ť
Despite racking up accolades left and right, this type of recognition will never be what motivates Clingan. He did say, however, being in serious consideration for national player of the year alongside the best high school players in the United States was a different experience.
â€śIt was crazy, I knew I had a chance, but to be a top-three finalist for national player of the year is crazy,â€ť Clingan said. â€śChet Holmgren, whoâ€™s the best player in the country, who won it, to be going up against him to win a Gatorade award is just crazy. Iâ€™m just really blessed, Iâ€™m going to stay humble about it and just keep working.â€ť
After receiving more than 20 offers to play Division I basketball, Clingan narrowed down his choices to eight schools and is planning on visiting each of them this summer. He went on official visits at the University of Michigan, Syracuse University and The Ohio State University each of the past three weekends in June and will be looking at UConn at the end of this week.
The second half of his recruiting visits will be at Providence College, Notre Dame, Rutgers University and Georgetown University. Clingan already expects to struggle making this decision after enjoying all of the visits so far.
â€śGoing on these visits helps a lot with seeing how youâ€™re going to fit in [with] your playing style,â€ť Clingan said. â€śGetting on the campus and getting a feel for the campus, certain campuses are big [and] some are a little smaller, so Iâ€™m just going on these visits and seeing what they have to show me.â€ť
The 2021-22 high school basketball season does not start until the middle of December, but after what his team accomplished last year, Clingan has his sights set on a state championship. This would be his first opportunity to play for state supremacy since his freshman year so he has no intentions of missing out on that opportunity.
Personally, his goals are all about honing his skills and making himself a better all-around player.
â€śAs a player I want to work on my jumpshot and ball-handling in-game and just keep working on my passing because itâ€™s one of my best skills,â€ť Clingan said.
Clingan is uncommonly focused on working towards pursuits, in part because, like most top basketball players, his season is year-round. The intensity of his training never waivers because he is always in playing shape and no amount of awards is going to make him complacent.
â€śWhen I found out that he had received this award, we had just finished working out at 5:30 in the morning, when most kids are sleeping,â€ť Barrette said. â€śThis hasnâ€™t changed himâ€ť
â€śHeâ€™s working hard on his game, heâ€™s working hard on his body, heâ€™s the definition of what you want a leader to look like and model their activity after.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.