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UConn star Donovan Clingan has declared for the NBA Draft, ESPN reports. Clingan played a pivotal role in helping the Huskies become college basketball's first repeat national champions since 2007. The 7-foot-2 center is a defensive menace who stepped into an elevated role in the 2023-24 season and thrived as an efficient interior scorer and shot-blocking machine.

Clingan averaged 13 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 63.9% from the floor in 22.5 minutes per game during the 2023-24 season. He turned up his game in the postseason when it mattered most and was particularly dominant in the Huskies' Elite Eight win over Illinois when he finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Rated a four-star prospect in the Class of 2022, Clingan burst onto the scene as UConn's backup center in the 2022-23 season, playing behind Adama Sanogo and showing his promise in just 13.1 minutes per game. A foot injury hampered Clingan early in the 2023-24 campaign. But once he settled in, he proved to be one of the nation's most dominant centers, earning third-team All-American honors from CBS Sports.

Donovan Clingan's NBA Draft projection

Clingan is No. 11 in the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports. But he landed at No. 5 in a recent mock draft from Kyle Boone.

"Illinois went 0-for-19 in the Elite Eight in shots contested by Donovan Clingan, which turned out to be one of his most dominant performances of the year," Boone wrote. "Clingan -- known affectionately by UConn fans as "Cling Kong" -- is a monster on the defensive side of the floor whose timing and anticipation on that end has changed the trajectory for the reigning champion Huskies. He's gone from surefire lottery pick to potential No. 1 overall."

So long as everything checks out from a health standpoint, he'll hear his name called early in the draft. Though he's limited offensively -- Clingan made just two 3-pointers in his college career -- he's agile enough defensively to not only survive in the NBA, but potentially thrive as an impact defender.

Impact on UConn

UConn coach Dan Hurley must remake much of his starting lineup yet again. He did it perfectly for the 2023-24 season by replacing three starters from a national title team and somehow coaxing the Huskies back to the top of the sport. Pulling off a three-peat will be demonstrably more difficult without Clingan as a defensive stopper. Samson Johnson has been in the program and is a high-quality center in his own right. But he's 6-foot-10, not 7-foot-2. Additionally, the Huskies are expected to lose their entire starting backcourt of Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle. Castle has yet to declare for the draft, but projects as a lottery pick.