Dan Hurley said in late April that he and his staff were “working to put together another group that can help us do something really historic, like stuff that hasn’t been done since UCLA and John Wooden and s—.” 

The three-peat watch is officially on in Storrs because Alex Karaban announced he is withdrawing from the NBA Draft and will return to UConn for his junior season. 

Karaban announced his return on social media Wednesday, posting an image with the following text: “While I’ve enjoyed the draft process, Storrs is home. Let’s run it back.”

The long awaited news, which came on the deadline day for college players to make their decision on whether they are coming back or staying in the draft, is as large of a development as any for the back-to-back reigning national champion Huskies

The 6-foot-8 forward will be the veteran face of Dan Hurley’s team and the guy he centers his offense around, with Karaban averaging 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 38% from 3-point territory this past year. Karaban was a fringe first-round pick this season and would likely have gone to the end of an NBA bench. By returning to Connecticut, he can become a top-20 prospect, make significant NIL money in Storrs and be the face of a run that has been accomplished by just one other program: John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins from 1967-73.

“We didn’t get good on offense until Alex (Karaban) got here” Hurley said last November. “When you have a 4-man that can process the game the way he does and keep your group organized, and also has the clutch gene, with a knack to make clutch shots and big free throws, he’s a special player.” 

In a world where NIL dollars drive the bus for so many decisions, and let’s make no mistake about the fact that Karaban will get paid a nice sum, he is also a throwback type of player. Money is not solely propelling him, but rather, he’s built a cult-like following in Storrs and is a fan favorite because of his love for basketball and winning. 

Karaban has told me multiple times that UConn is perfect for him because in the cold of a Connecticut winter, he thrives on getting in as many gym sessions as possible in between classes. He could join Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson, Adama Sanogo, Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle as the next UConn standout to be a draft-night success story next June. But in a world of basketball legends, Karaban has a chance to do something no other player has been able to accomplish in Storrs – and anywhere outside of Westwood: be a three-time national champion. 

With Saint Mary’s transfer Aidan Mahaney joining veteran Hassan Diarra and five-star freshman Liam McNeeley, the Huskies have a fascinating makeup in their backcourt. Don’t forget about Jaylin Stewart and Solomon Ball, who should both take a sophomore leap as well. In the frontcourt, Samson Johnson and Michigan transfer Tarris Reed will be the Huskies’ latest tandem that Hurley will go to. 

But at the power forward position, a doorway was there if Karaban elected to come back. On Wednesday, what UConn fans hoped for became official, and in return, raises the potential of Hurley’s hopes and dreams coming to fruition. 

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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