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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Donovan Clingan and Stephon Citadel Speak UConn Championships and the NBA

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Barely an hour after the NBA draft lottery outcomes have been revealed to the world reside from Chicago, and only a few blocks away from the place the annual ceremony occurred, Donovan Clingan and Stephon Citadel each arrive on set for our cowl shoot on the most picturesque indoor fitness center in all of America. Situated at 167 Inexperienced within the Fulton Market District, the seventeenth flooring hardwood court docket, known as City Corridor, options gorgeous panoramic skyline views of Chi City from nearly each aspect you flip due to its floor-to-ceiling glass partitions.

The view supplies a calmness impact after the ruckus from the earlier hour, when each gamers discovered the quick checklist of groups which are more than likely to finish up drafting them in June. It’s been fairly the journey for this duo—one that may have them stamped in faculty hoops historical past for eternity.

SLAM 250 that includes Donovan Clingan and Stephon Citadel is accessible now.

Clingan, a 7-2 middle, received back-to-back nationwide titles in his solely two seasons at UConn. He averaged 13 factors, 7.4 boards and a pair of.5 blocks per recreation this previous season, incomes him a spot on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Midseason Watch Checklist, the 2024 NCAA Remaining 4 All-Match Group and a ’24 NCAA East Area Most Excellent Participant nod.

In the meantime, Citadel, a 6-6 freshman wing who averaged 11.1 factors, 4.7 rebounds and a pair of.9 assists whereas turning into a high perimeter defender for the Huskies, made his personal imprint within the historical past books. He set a brand new Large East report with 11 Freshman Convention Participant of the Week honors, surpassing Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. He was additionally the primary Huskie since Rudy Homosexual in 2005 to win Large East Freshman Participant of the Yr.

We sat down with each projected top-10 picks after our shoot to debate their historic run, their chemistry and their NBA outlook, amongst many different matters.

SLAM: It’s been a couple of weeks because you guys lower down the nets and made historical past, going back-to-back as nationwide champs. Now that you simply’ve had a while to course of all of it, how do you set into phrases the accomplishment?   

Donovan Clingan: To win back-to-back, you recognize, for me personally, was one thing actually particular simply because there’s not too many individuals that might go round saying that they’ve carried out one thing that particular. We did it in such a historic program that has quite a lot of historical past, and it’s a spot the place it’s laborious to make historical past. However to go on the market and do a number of the most historic issues which have occurred in this system was one thing actually particular. I feel UConn is a particular place that may at all times be house to me. I do know Steph will say the identical factor. I’m simply tremendous, tremendous blessed to have the ability to have completed what I’ve completed, and I’ll be endlessly grateful for my two years at UConn.

Stephon Citadel: I imply, actually, it actually nonetheless doesn’t even really feel actual to me. I solely received as soon as, I can solely think about what it looks like for DC. Simply the entire expertise was tremendous, tremendous enjoyable.

It actually was a blessing simply to be on the market with the nice group that we had. We had an actual particular group. Like [DC] stated, it’s undoubtedly a second house for me.

SLAM: At what particular level within the season do you bear in mind feeling like y’all had a very good probability to run all of it again?

DC: I really feel like after we went on our journey to Europe [UConn played in Monte Carlo and Spain last summer—Ed.], we noticed the potential we had. To be trustworthy, I really feel like I didn’t know if a nationwide title was a risk once more, simply because I noticed how laborious it was the yr earlier than, and we have been going to have an enormous goal on our again, however after we bought again from Europe, we had like two weeks off and we got here again in for the beginning of follow within the common season. And you could possibly simply inform the vitality and the need of everybody on the group, everybody on the workers, everybody within the constructing, actually, simply needed to go on the market and win each recreation, each evening.

SC: Early within the season, I didn’t understand how good we have been. I imply, we at all times talked about going back-to-back and chasing a nationwide championship, however I really feel like each college talks about going for a nationwide championship. I really feel prefer it was concerning the midpoint of the season, most likely like the place the Large East [season] actually kicked off, after I kinda knew, like, we actually had an opportunity at successful the entire thing over once more.

SLAM: Donovan, your freshman season, you solely averaged 13 minutes per recreation however performed a serious position within the rotation on the 2023 nationwide championship group. What did you be taught from that group that you simply have been then in a position to apply to this previous season, if you grew to become a serious point of interest?

DC: Simply realizing every part I needed to give each single day. I performed [in practice] in opposition to probably the most dominant massive within the nation in Adama [Sanogo], who went into follow and into exercises each single day understanding that he’s gonna get higher and understanding that the group was gonna want him that yr to make an enormous bounce [and] lead us to the place we needed to go. I really feel like that was one thing for me, coming into the season—I’ve to make an enormous bounce. I’ve to be a pacesetter. I’ve to dominate the ground on the offensive and defensive finish. I simply gotta give my all, day in and day trip, simply to ensure that this group wins.

SLAM: Steph, you bought thrown proper into the hearth regardless of being a freshman—you have been a starter from the very first recreation, and solely got here off the bench a couple of instances because of an early season damage. What was the early problem like for you?

SC: I imply, it was undoubtedly laborious at first. Undoubtedly one thing that it’s a must to actually modify to and actually simply embrace. However I really feel like my teammates, that they had quite a lot of confidence in me this yr and so they instilled quite a lot of confidence in myself. So, simply going on the market, simply trusting my work that I put in and simply understanding that the coaches consider in what I do.

SLAM: Donovan, you determined to return to faculty with out even testing the NBA waters in 2023. A reporter afterward stated that NBA scouts believed you could possibly have been chosen anyplace between 25 and 40 within the draft that yr. Why did you suppose it was essential to return?

DC: I knew I needed to mature as an individual, as a participant. I needed to increase my recreation in some ways. I solely performed 13 minutes a recreation final yr. I needed to go on the market and be a starter, attempt to lead the group to a different nationwide title and I simply needed to go play for UConn. I like Coach [Dan] Hurley, I like that workers, I like the varsity, and I simply needed to attempt to be a part of one thing actually particular and to have the ability to say that I did which means so much to me.

SLAM: Steph, do you bear in mind the second if you realized that regardless of being a freshman who’s beginning for the reigning nationwide champs, you had what it took to carry your individual at an elite degree?

SC: I don’t bear in mind the precise follow however I do know I used to be frying although, that’s the one factor I do bear in mind. I feel I used to be on the second group on the time, too. So, that undoubtedly gave me quite a lot of confidence going into it, particularly getting back from an damage.

SLAM: Are there components of your recreation that you simply didn’t get an opportunity to showcase in faculty as a result of the group didn’t want you to, that you simply’re now excited to have the ability to present on the subsequent degree?

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DC: Yeah, to have the ability to step out, shoot the three ball a little bit extra, play off the dribble, actually simply working that midrange recreation and setting the pick-and-pops and simply roll to the rim, lobs. You already know, Coach Hurley had a terrific recreation plan for this group. He at all times put us in the very best place attainable and my group didn’t want me to shoot threes to win video games. That’s one thing I didn’t should do. [But] that’s one thing I’m gonna should do to take my recreation to the following degree and succeed on the highest degree.

SC: I imply, most likely simply being on the ball extra, taking extra photographs, like off the dribble and stuff like that. I really feel like Coach had a terrific scheme for us and he requested particularly what he wanted for us to win a championship. And I assumed we bought it carried out. But when there was something, I’ll say taking pictures off the dribble, playmaking a little bit extra on the ball and, you recognize, stuff like that.

SLAM: Steph, you set the Large East report for many Convention Freshman of the Week honors, and in doing so, you surpassed Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. What did that historic feat imply to you?

SC: It meant so much, simply to place my title subsequent to these high-level kind of men. You already know, I really feel like that meant so much for my profession and what my legacy was at UConn for that quick time. However quite a lot of that credit score goes to my teammates and my coaches. I really feel like they put me in a terrific place to achieve success in these video games. I simply needed to go on the market and simply be myself. I really feel like quite a lot of credit score goes to them.

SLAM: You additionally grew to become the primary UConn males’s participant since Rudy Homosexual in 2005 to win Large East Freshman of the Yr.

SC: I wouldn’t say it was often only a aim for me, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly behind your head as you’re enjoying. It’s one thing that you simply form of shoot for. So, like DC stated, it’s a reasonably historic college. There’s been quite a lot of nice names to come back out of there, so simply to have my title beside these guys and instilled in that historical past endlessly, it’s tremendous particular to me.

SLAM: Donovan, do you’ve got an off-the-court story of Stephon that you simply’d say completely displays his persona when the cameras aren’t rolling?

DC: I imply, Steph likes to nap. He likes to sleep. After we have been on the best way again from Europe, I bear in mind earlier than we not noted of Barcelona—like, I don’t suppose everybody was even on the airplane but—he was already asleep, and he didn’t get up till the lights turned on after we landed in Boston. It was like an eight-hour flight, and he didn’t get up as soon as. Not even to make use of the lavatory. Nothing. And I used to be similar to, That’s Steph! Like, when he’s sleeping, he’s sleeping. However when he’s up, he’s simply hooping. However he simply likes to nap. Each time I see him, he’s napping. On the bus, on the airplane—he’s napping.

SLAM: What about you, Steph—any good Donovan tales?

SC: So, it’s someday in follow—I feel [Donovan], he wasn’t having the very best follow. He was form of mad at himself. I wish to say he kicked one thing or he punched the backboard or it was one thing loopy like that, however he harm himself. And we had a recreation developing. I imply, we at all times referred to as him “Cling Kong,” so I really feel like that was one in every of his moments. He ripped his shirt in follow, punched the backboard, he began screaming. He was going loopy.

DC: I wish to win [shrugs with a smile].

SC: It’s follow, although [laughs].

DC: It’s OK, I don’t lose.

SC: I don’t bear in mind the entire story. I do know you’ll be able to inform the story.

DC: I imply, I get upset generally with how I’m enjoying, and if I’m not doing what I’m imagined to do on the ground, I take it out on myself. And I put quite a lot of strain on myself. I do exactly get annoyed at instances—

SC: [interrupting Donovan] You ever seen anyone punch the backboard with out leaping?

DC: I simply wish to win [laughs].

SLAM: When individuals speak concerning the 2023-2024 UConn Males’s group 10, 20 years from now, what do you hope they are saying by way of your legacy?

SC: I feel we is likely to be up there as the most effective faculty basketball groups ever, as a result of if you concentrate on it, our solely video games we misplaced have been away video games, and one in every of them, we didn’t even have our full group. [Actually], two of them—one recreation I used to be harm after which one recreation [DC] bought harm.

DC: Simply to be remembered as one in every of, if not the very best faculty basketball group ever. There was a bunch of men who gave it their all each single day for 11 months of the yr. It’s a particular group. We have been a brotherhood. Everybody cherished one another, and that’s going to be a particular group. There’s nobody that’s going to be not noted endlessly. We’re all going to remain in contact, we’re all gonna be brothers for all times, and that’s simply one thing that’s actually essential to me.

Portraits by Joe Pinchin. Motion photographs through Getty Photos.

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