Donovan Clingan on Prepping for the NBA Draft, Expanding His Game, and Ray Allen

Donovan Clingan is not used to losing. In his two years at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies won 68 games and lost only 11 times. Two of those wins, famously, were in national championship games, making UConn just the third school in the last 50 years to pull off a repeat. Clingan was right in the middle of that, going from a vital bench player as a freshman to the team’s starting center in his sophomore year.

With two rings in his possession, it’s understandable that Clingan would look to the next level. After UConn knocked off Purdue in this year’s title game, he declared for the NBA Draft, where the consensus is that he’ll be a top pick, and maybe even go in the top five. Standing 7’2” with a 7’6” wingspan, the 20-year-old is the type of player teams hope can be an anchor in the post for the foreseeable future.

Clingan spent a chunk of the spring in Miami, where he geared up for the big day with training that he hopes will make him an all-around threat, not just a towering presence under the basket. Before meeting with NBA teams that put him through the traditional pre-draft wringer—“You do a lot of meetings, you do dinners, you workout,” he said. “I’m guessing they’re trying to pick up on everything you do and what kind of person you are in every type of atmosphere”—Clingan chopped it up with GQ about everything from adapting to the three-point-happy NBA to the watch he’ll wear on draft night.

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Clingan is one of the few men on earth who have cut down the nets twice

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GQ: What have you been hearing as far as where you might go in the draft?

Donovan Clingan: I feel like I could go anywhere from one to ten. It’s so hard—I feel certain ways about myself and where I should go, but I have to prove to everyone what I can do.

Since that final buzzer sounded in the national championship game, do you feel like you became a different person?

I feel like I’m the same person. I’ll never change who I’ve been. I’ve got a great personality, always cared for everyone, always been outgoing. That’s something special about me. I’m never going to change that. I’m the same kid with the same dream, and I’m just trying to make everyone proud by making it to the NBA and having a successful career. There’s a lot more attention, but I’ll never change.

During the season, how often did you talk about winning back-to-back championships? Were you using that as motivation, or was it kind of an unspoken thing?

Yeah, it was, “Treat this year like something. We are trying to do something special.” For the guys that weren’t there [for the first championship in 2023] or didn’t get to experience what that team experienced, we wanted to be able to do it for them. We wanted to insert ourselves into history.

So once you won the second one, how quickly did it sink in that you’d actually done it? Because not many people can say they won back-to-back NCAA championships!

I mean…pretty quick. You realize how hard it was to do it once, so to do it again was absolutely unreal.

Did it feel surreal? I imagine doing it once before kind of helps you process the feeling, but does two in a row kind of feel like a movie?

Yeah, it didn’t feel real at all. You look at the NBA and try to figure out how many players in the league right now are back-to-back NCAA champions—the only one I can think of is Al Horford. That’s when you realize you’ve done something special that very, very few people can say they’ve done. That’s the surreal feeling.

It was pretty dope. UConn has had a lot of history. A lot of special things have been done at UConn. The girls have done it, but on the men’s side, it was something that hadn’t been done. Being able to go out and do that was historic. Our fans are great. They’re very supportive at every game and every event. We tried to do it for them, and for UConn.

Have you developed a relationship with any of the UConn legends? Is Ray Allen hitting you up? Did you ever hear from Sue Bird or Diana Taurasi?

I’m pretty close with Ray! I talk to him here and there. Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, Rip Hamilton, there’s a bunch of guys.

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