BRISTOL - âHome.â
The location tag on Donovan Clinganâs instagram post said it all as the 7-foot-1 rising senior committed to play basketball at UConn. Clingan was finishing his official visit in Storrs when he took to social media to make the announcement. UConn was the fourth of eight schools he planned on visiting this summer, but he knew it was time to end his recruiting process because he found a home in northeast Connecticut.
âEvery time when I visited the campus I was always happy,â Clingan said. âMy relationship with the [coaching] staff was way better, way stronger than any relationship with any other staff. I feel like I have a great relationship with the players there and the kids Iâm going in with. It just felt right all around.â
Being so close allowed the Bristol Central captain and 2021 Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year to build more of a relationship with the people in the Huskiesâ program than with other schools. Despite that he said he entered this summer with an open mind, but while finishing his visit with a barbecue at head coach Dan Hurleyâs house, Clingan told his future coach he was joining the program.
âI didnât really see it coming,â Clingan said. âI was there on that visit and I felt like it was time. I was ready to commit and the place just felt like home, it was home when I was thereâ
âWe went to Coach Hurleyâs house for a barbecue at night, the whole team and the whole staff was there and I went up and told Coach Hurley I was coming.â
Accompanied on this visit by his father, Bill, the two celebrated an important milestone that validates all of their hard work and dedication.
âThere were a lot of feelings,â Bill said. âThere were a lot of emotions, I was very proud of Donovan. He did his due diligence and went out to these other schools and just said to me âDad, this feels right and I want to commit here.â Iâm there for him 100 percent no matter what he chose.â
Donovan said he had to turn off all the notifications on his phone after he made the announcement because, naturally, he was getting messages and calls from numerous people all at once. His plan was always to have his collegiate commitment made before the start of his final season at Central to ensure he could dedicate all of his focus to basketball.
âThe amount of pressure, the amount of stress on my shoulders, it all feels relieved now,â Clingan said. âItâs just a dream come true, really.â
The 44th-ranked recruit in the class of 2022 according to Rivals.com, Clingan led the Rams to an undefeated conference championship season in which he averaged 27.3 points, 17.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 5.8 blocks. His only remaining goal in high school is to win a state championship before bringing that same attitude to Connecticut to pursue another national championship for the program.
âI think the attributes he brings to a program are more off the court than they are on the court,â Central head coach Tim Barrette said. âHis game speaks for himself, but heâs the definition of a leader and the definition of a worker. Theyâre going to have to find somebody whoâs going to be in that gym with him all hours of the night because that kid wonât be leaving it.â
Clinganâs proximity to UConn gave Hurley a natural recruiting advantage over other programs and the two developed a connection that many other coaches never had an opportunity to. Staying in-state was also enticing for Clingan, who takes great pride in representing his hometown of Bristol, as he will have tremendous local support from the UConn fan base.
âI feel like he knows me best out of all the coaches,â Clingan said. âHe went to a lot of my games, he got to see a lot more than the other coaches did so he knows my game better than anyone elseâ
âI see him developing me into the player I want to be.â
Clinganâs deepest motivation as both a basketball player and Bristol Central student-athlete has always been his mother, Stacey, a Central graduate who was also one of the schoolâs greatest basketball players before playing at the University of Maine. Stacey died of breast cancer in 2018 and her son continues to play in her name every day as his name is already set to join hers in the Ramsâ record books.
âShe wouldâve been extremely happy for me,â Donovan said. âShe was supportive of everything. Just to know sheâs watching from above and I know sheâs proud of me. Iâm just going to try to continue to make her proud and make her happy.â
Clingan narrowed down his choices to UConn, Syracuse, Ohio State and Michigan, all which he visited, in addition to Providence, Georgetown and Rutgers. He received offers from more than 20 schools, but the Huskies were one of the first programs to make contact and used that time to develop a bond.
âMy relationship and how it feels is always most important,â Clingan said. âBeing close to home and seeing my family at all the games will definitely feel good. A lot of people around were always telling me âyou have to come to UConn.â Knowing that Iâll have the fanbase and the support around me is really nice.â
Coaching staffs were not the only ones recruiting Clingan as fellow 2022 UConn-commit Corey Floyd Jr. and incoming Rahsool Diggins made their interest in playing with the seven-footer clear through social media posts and interviews. Naturally thrilled to now have Clingan as an upcoming teammate, they reached out to congratulate him and they are all looking forward to playing together in the coming years.
âThey were excited,â Clingan said. âWeâre looking forward to bringing home that fifth national championship to Connecticut. Weâre just ready to go, we canât wait.â
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.