Evaluating Donovan Clingan, Anton Watson, and Alex Karaban in the UConn-Gonzaga Game

December 18th, 2023

By Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Connecticut take on Gonzaga in a December 15th basketball game that was played in Seattle.  I wanted to take this opportunity to get an extended look at Stephon Castle, whose received strong draft buzz despite not having played much this season.  However, it was a fairly underwhelming game, as there weren’t many three-point shots that were being made, and Stephon Castle didn’t shoot the ball well against Gonzaga.  On the other hand, Clingan and Watson played well, and they looked to be the two best performers of this game.  So here are my thoughts on how they and other various prospects fared on this day.

7-foot-2 sophomore center, Donovan Clingan had a solid showing, as he helped lead UConn to a sterling, double-digit win over Gonzaga in Seattle on December 15th. (Photo: Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Donovan Clingan is a strong, physical big man that mostly excelled at making plays in the paint.  He showed a solid ability to score out of the post and on rolls to the rim, and he can ably score with his back to the basket as well as on the move.  Also, he showed off adequate playmaking skills in this game.  He was able to find a cutter to show some of his passing skills, but he also had trouble handling the ball amidst pressure, which led him to commit a turnover once.  

Clingan did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He also played decent defense in this game.  Clingan is an active help defender that would rotate to block shots, as he was able to swat a mid-range jumper to force a miss, and he also jumped a pass to get a steal.  However, he had some trouble defending out on the perimeter, especially when guarding quicker players.  He got beat off the dribble when defending a baseline drive, which led him to commit a foul.   Another time, he also gave up too much space when defending a mid-range shot once, which led him to give up the basket.

Overall, Donovan Clingan had a solid showing in this game, and he is a strong, physical center that excelled at making plays in the paint to help his team on both ends of the floor.  He’s been very productive this year.  While there may be questions about his offensive skills and athleticism, Clingan is a high-motor player that excels at making plays in the paint, especially at the collegiate level.  He could project to be a rotational big man at the NBA level, and Clingan will probably be a first round pick in the 2024 draft.

Gonzaga’s Anton Watson also played well in his team’s loss to UConn.  He is a fairly athletic, energetic forward that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he especially excelled as a scorer on offense. Watson shot the ball well from the outside, as he was able to make a long two and a three-pointer.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he also was able to drive to score on a powerful dunk in transition.  He also would draw free throws on aggressive drives to the hoop.  But sometimes he would struggle to score off the dribble or out of the post, especially when he wouldn’t get foul calls.

As a playmaker, he looked to be about average.  He’s also an unselfish player that can pass and handle the ball, especially for a player his size.  He was able to make a drive and kick pass to set up a scoring chance for a teammate once.  On the other hand, he ended up committing a couple of turnovers.

He also didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to get boards on both end of the floor.  He also played adequate defense.  Watson was able to poke a ball away, and he also got his hands on a pass another time to help his team get steals.  On the downside, he would sometimes play too aggressively, which would lead him to commit fouls.  Another time, he struggled to fight through a screen and was too slow to get out to a shooter, which led his team to allow a three-point basket.

Overall, Anton Watson had a solid showing in his team’s loss to UConn.  He is a fairly athletic combo forward that has shown improved offensive skills, and he is a high-motor player that can make plays on both sides of the ball.  He’ll still need to be more consistent games and prove that he can be a consistent outside shooting threat, but he is a productive player that could end up being a second round pick in the 2024 draft.

Alex Karaban had a decent showing in his team’s win over Gonzaga.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he was able to make hustle plays on both ends of the floor.  Karaban showed off a decent outside shot, as he was able to knock down a three, and he also pulled up to make a mid-range floater once.  He also showed a knack for scoring off of backdoor cuts.  Plus, Karaban also was able to utilize a drop step move to score out of the post.

On the downside, he was a bit turnover prone, and he would tend to over-dribble and get balls poked away from him that would lead him to turn the ball over.  In this game, he was able to chip in to get a few boards for his team.  He also defended well.  Karaban was able to block a shot off of a drive in this game.

Overall, Alex Karaban quietly played well, and he was able to help his team get the win in this game.  He is a skilled, versatile forward that can shoot and defend, and he is a player that could ably project into a 3 and D role at the NBA level.

Connecticut’s 6-2 senior guard, Hassan Diarra also played well to help his team get a win over Gonzaga.  He excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor.  Diarra particularly shined at scoring off the dribble as he showed good balance and body control to finish plays at the rim, and he also was able to make a mid-range jumper.

Diarra was able to throw an interior pass to a cutter to notch an assist.  He also did a satisfactory job of rebounding the basketball.  Plus, he also defended very well, as he was able to block a shot off of a drive, and he also stole an inbounds pass athletically another time.

Overall, Hassan Diarra is an athletic, energetic combo guard that excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor.  He didn’t take any threes in this game, but he did everything else well, and he could project to be an effective role player at the NBA level in the future.

Cam Spencer also played very well in this game.  He shot the ball very well, especially from beyond the arc, and Spencer is an agile, skilled sharpshooter that did a great job of knocking down threes.  He was able to run off of a ball screen to make a three early on, and he showed a knack for making spot-up threes off the catch.

Spencer also did a good job of pulling up to score on mid-range jumpers off the dribble.  He also played unselfishly, helped his team out on the boards, and played fairly solid defense.  Spencer did a good job of getting his hands on passes to get steals.  On the other hand, every once in a while, he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble.

Overall, Cam Spencer had another terrific game, and he is a good offensive player that can really shoot the basketball.  While he may not be a point guard at the collegiate level, Spencer can really shoot the basketball, and that skill could allow him to make it to the NBA someday.

Tristen Newton had a decent showing, even if he didn’t quite dominate as expected in this game.  Newton showed off versatile scoring skills, as he was able to make a three, and he also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.

He also played unselfishly, and he would make an assortment of passes to notch assists due to possessing solid court vision.  Newton was able to chip in on the boards.  Defensively, he looked to be above average.  He was able to draw a charge when defending a drive once.  Another time though, he whiffed on a steal attempt when defending a drive, which put him out of position and led him to allow a score that time.

Overall, Tristen Newton played well in this game.  He’s been having a terrific season, but the draft buzz seemingly hasn’t caught on to that yet.  Still, he is a versatile playmaker that can operate well as either a big point guard or as a skilled, off-ball player, and he does pretty much everything well at the collegiate level.  While his advanced age may suggest that he may not have much upside left as a prospect for the association, he is a solid player whose skill set and feel for the game could enable him to excel as a solid role player in the NBA.

Stephon Castle did not have a great showing in this game, but he was able to make some solid plays against Gonzaga. He is an athletic, energetic swingman that played for Connecticut in this game.  He would often attack the basket on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He was able to utilize a Euro-step move to score on a drive in transition.  On the downside, he tended to miss on awkward drives in traffic.

He also was able to score on a quick drop step out of the post, and Castle showed good low post moves to score that time.  On the downside, Castle didn’t shoot the ball very well, and he would miss awkwardly on his three-point attempts.

Also, Castle showed off solid playmaking skills, and he is an unselfish player that would throw accurate passes to consistently find the open man, and he also took good care of the basketball.

On the downside, Castle did not grab a single rebound in this game.  On the other hand, Castle defended well.  He was able to dive for a loose ball on the ground and tip a ball to a teammate once due to making a good hustle play.  Another time, when defending an opposing ball handler, he was able to cut off penetration and force a pass to help indirectly force a passing turnover.

Overall, Stephon Castle had his ups and downs in this game.  He showed that he can pass and defend in games, but he will need to improve his outside shot, which will open up driving lanes for him to score more effectively.  Right now, his draft stock may be a tad inflated, as he’s been hurt and hasn’t seemed to play too well against top notch competition, but he could end up being a first round pick in the 2024 draft. Even so, he seems to be quite overrated as a prospect right now, as his lack of jump shot could make it very difficult for him to reach his full potential at the next level.

Ryan Nembhard was able to have some solid scores on quick, aggressive drives to the hoop, but he also would miss on wild drives in traffic in the second half, and he was too turnover prone as he would be too careless when passing and handling the basketball in this game.  

Nembhard played solid defense as he was an active help defender, but his inability to finish plays or take care of the basketball in the second half hurt him in this game.  Overall, he is a talented point guard, but he will need to shoot the ball better and play more under control in order to realize his full potential, but if so, he could end up being a solid backup point guard in the NBA.

Nolan Hickman is an athletic combo guard that showed a solid ability to score off the dribble, and he can swiftly change directions and finish plays in the paint to score smoothly at the rim.  However, he didn’t shoot well from the outside, and he tended to over-dribble to commit turnovers.  On the defensive end, he also bit on a pump fake to commit a bad foul on a mid-range shot.  Overall, Hickman is a talented prospect, but he’ll need to shoot better and be more consistent in games, but his athleticism and ability to score may make him a second round prospect for the 2024 draft.

Samson Johnson had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Gonzaga.  Johnson had one great play, as he was able to catch a lob pass off of a roll to the rim to score on a high-flying, alley-oop dunk.  That play showed that he can excel as a lob threat and finisher around the basket, which showcased his potential all on that one play.  However, he didn’t play very well elsewhere, as he ran into frequent foul trouble.  Johnson had trouble defending in the post, as he would be too aggressive in trying to contest shots, and he would also get outmuscled, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Overall, Johnson is a very athletic, energetic big man that may have considerable upside, but he may still be raw as a prospect for the NBA.  Still, his length and athleticism could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider late in the draft, and he could end up being a solid backup center if everything pans out for him in the future.

Graham Ike played for Gonzaga, and he had his ups and downs in this game.  He showed that he is a strong, low post player that showed solid strength and shooting touch to score inside.  However, he didn’t show much shooting range or handles, and he didn’t play that much.

He also rebounded the ball well.  Defensively, he showed that he can ably contest and alter shots in the paint.  However, he also struggled to defend out on the perimeter, and his team had trouble guarding in pick and roll situations on the defensive end.  Overall, Graham Ike didn’t have his best game, but he showed the potential to develop into a go-to scorer for Gonzaga in the future.  He is a player that could end up being really good at the collegiate level.  On the other hand, his lack of perimeter skills and questionable mobility may be concerns for the NBA level.  Ike will need time to stay in school, but he was a very good get for Gonzaga.  Currently, he may be a borderline second round candidate, but he could project into being a useful backup big man at the NBA level.All in all, those are my thoughts on how Clingan and other various prospects fared in this game.  Thanks for reading.

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