Clingan silences critics, earns MVP honors for champion Huskies at Phil Knight invite

There have been some who wondered if former Bristol Central superstar Donovan Clingan would be able to play major Division I college basketball at UConn.

Clingan had his doubters, as is the case with many players who come from the state of Connecticut. Some believed he didn’t get enough competition while playing in high school, despite also playing on the AAU circuit.

So far, the seven-foot-two true freshman has been able to silence those doubters.

All Clingan did in his first college tournament, the Phil Knight Invitational, was play well enough to be named its most valuable player. And oh yeah, the Big East Conference named him their freshman of the week. How’s that for being able to hang with the big boys of Division I?

“It means a lot to me,” Clingan told Andy Katz of after the Huskies downed Iowa State, 71-53, to win the Portland, Ore., based tournament named after the founder of Nike. “It shows that all the hard work I put in over the summer and the last couple months is paying off.”

With Adama Sanogo in foul trouble, Clingan had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for UConn in Sunday night’s final against Iowa State. He was 5-for-6 from the floor, 5-for-7 from the foul line, and he did all that in just 18 minutes. Clingan’s supporters from the Bell City couldn’t be prouder of him.

“MVP @clingan_donovan. You belong. 🐏💪,” tweeted Bristol Central assistant principal Ryan Broderick.

“So well deserved. It’s only the beginning,” tweeted Beth Lafferty, a longtime supporter who teaches and coaches at Northeast Middle School.

“Well-deserved honor for a hard-working young man!! I’m going to miss him working to clear out snow with me this winter! 🐏🏀💪🏻#hardworkpaysoff #ctbb,” tweeted Richard Brown, whose son Austin played for Central with Clingan.

Clingan did more than just score and rebound (9.3 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) in the tournament. He kept loose balls alive around and under the basket. Clingan blocked shots (1.6 per game), including one he sent into the stands on Friday night against Alabama. If he doesn’t block the shot, he can alter it with his seven-foot-two height and long wingspan. Clingan is also a big body when he’s setting screens, and he’s persistent about it. If the first screen doesn’t pan out, Clingan will set another one to get the offense flowing.

UConn is 8-0 and is ranked eighth in the latest AP Top 25 poll, and Clingan is fitting in just fine.

Photo credit: UConn athletics.