UConn celebrated their 2023 national title in style in Hartford Saturday afternoon, riding in a double-decker bus through Bushnell Park and ending their parade with a rally outside of the XL Center. Hartford police estimate over 45,000 fans were in attendance to greet the Huskies in Connecticut’s capital, where Dan Hurley told fans that while the “strive for five” was complete, he and the team were doing everything possible to be “in the mix for number six.”
“I was amazed just by how many people were here today, it was surreal,” Hurley said. “Not many programs win national championships, but I gotta tell you, the mind is definitely already started turning into the things we got to do to be in the mix for number six.”
That quest for a repeat and a sixth national title got a big boost as Saturday as star freshman Donovan Clingan announced he will be returning to UConn for his sophomore year next fall. Clingan, the 7-foot-2 center from nearby Bristol, Connecticut, was incredibly efficient and effective for the Huskies in limited minutes this season. He finished third in the NCAA tournament with 11 blocks in six games and posted four double-doubles this season, all of which came in 22 minutes or less.
The big man garnered some legitimate NBA buzz as his freshman season progressed, but elected to come back to UConn for at least one more season for a shot at another national championship.
“We’re going to run it back and get another one next year,” Clingan said. “This is crazy, this is a dream come true. I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.”
With Jordan Hawkins already declared for the NBA Draft and Clingan officially back, next year’s roster is already starting to round into form. Hurley and the team will take off Easter Sunday before getting back to business the following day for next season and working on seeing who is staying and who is leaving.
One big question mark? Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo. Sanogo, who has two years of eligibility left, dominated in just about every way this season, and Hurley expects the Mali big man to be an NBA player sooner rather than later.
“Listen, Adama was one of the best players in the country, how he’s not an NBA draft pick, how he can immediately be on the 15 man roster of an NBA team — He is a special special player, one of the greatest players in UConn history,” Hurley said. “He’s earned the right to go through that process because he’s one of the best players in the country, and obviously keep his options open. He’s accomplished so much at this level.”
Regardless of Sanogo’s decision, Hurley made it clear that anyone who helped the Huskies cut down the nets in Houston this year would be welcomed back if it makes the most sense for them.
“We want as many players to return, not in a selfish way, if it makes sense for somebody to leave and you know, that they’ve their value is, is greater somewhere else, then you go take advantage of those opportunities like Jordan. But you obviously want as many guys returning from the national championship team as you can return that makes sense in terms of like roles and how you still see things for them,” Hurley said.
But with a national championship in tow, it’s very possible UConn will continue to be a hotbed for high-profile transfers and top-notch recruits. The Huskies already have a top-five recruiting class coming in for next season and have already been noted as in the mix for some of the top transfers currently out there in the transfer portal. While the title doesn’t change Hurley’s tactics on the recruiting trail, it certainly helps sell the program a little bit easier.
“Who wouldn’t want to play at UConn?” Hurley said. “We’ve proven that we can compete and win a national championship. Every year we’re putting players in the NBA Draft. We don’t hold our players back. We get our young players on the court, we develop them, we get them to the NBA quickly, and we win big while we’re doing that... Unless there is something else going on in recruiting why wouldn't you want to come here?”