UConn center Donovan Clingan returns to practice, named to NABC top player watch list

UConn center Donovan Clingan was named to the NABC Player of the Year preseason watch list, the team announced Thursday.

Emeka Okafor is the only UConn player in program history to have received the award; he shared the honor with Jameer Nelson following the 2003-04 season. Clingan, a sophomore, is one of 20 players on this year’s list ahead of what is anticipated to be a breakout year for the 7-foot-2 star.

Missing the last month as he dealt with a foot strain, Clingan returned to practice this week. His status will be monitored as he progresses through practice and and an update to his status will be available prior to the Nov. 6 season-opener, the team announced Thursday.

Clingan and the Huskies could potentially face nine of the other players on the watch list this season as it includes five, not including Clingan, from the Big East.

Creighton has two players on the list in center Ryan Kalkbrenner and guard Trey Alexander, along with Providence’s Bryce Hopkins, Villanova’s Justin Moore and Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, the 2022-23 Big East Player of the Year. The Huskies will face Hunter Dickinson and Kansas in the nonconference slate, as well as Armando Bacot of North Carolina and former Creighton guard Ryan Nembhard, now at Gonzaga. Depending on how the Empire Classic shakes out, UConn could match up with Texas and guard Max Admas on Day Two at Madison Square Garden.

Clingan was a preseason All-Big East Second Team selection and was named to the watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award in addition to preseason All-American selections by The Almanac, CBS Sports and FOX Sports.

Playing behind Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo last year, Clingan was a Big East All-Freshman selection after averaging 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 13.1 minutes per game. He had four double-doubles and scored at least 20 points twice last season.

Now, with his minutes expected to double, Clingan hopes to maintain his level of production and form a similar one-two punch with junior Samson Johnson.

The award is selected by a nationwide vote of Division I head coaches and will be announced the week of the 2024 Men’s Final Four.