The two-time reigning national champs got a boost of great news hours before Wednesday's stay-or-go NCAA draft deadline: After a productive pre-draft process and workouts with a litany of NBA franchises, UConn junior-to-be Alex Karaban is returning to play for Dan Hurley's Huskies. 

Karaban announced the news on X. 

Karaban will be the lone returning starter for UConn next season. The Huskies lost point guard Tristen Newton and shooting guard Cam Spencer to expiring eligibility; both are expected to be drafted. Sophomore center Donovan Clingan and freshman wing Stephon Castle declared early and are projected lottery picks. 

Karaban, a small forward who averaged 13.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and started all 39 games for Connecticut last season, would have potentially been a second round selection, had he decided to stay. Instead, he'll be the key piece for a UConn team trying to become the first men's program since John Wooden's UCLA teams of the 1970s to win three straight NCAA titles. 

In coming back for a third college season, Karaban will be the most accomplished player in the sport. In addition to having two national championships, he's also a two-time Big East champion and has a career record of 68-11. His value projects as a top-10 returning player to the sport next season. In opting to return, Karaban could vault himself into a lock first-rounder a year from now. 

UConn's status as a top-five team heading into the fall is all the more viable thanks to Karaban's boomerang back to Storrs. The Huskies will not lack for intrigue, bringing back a bevy of breakout-player candidates: Hassan Diarra (6.1 PPG), Samson Johnson (5.4 PPG), Solomon Ball (3.3 PPG) and Jaylin Stewart (2.5 PPG) will all step into bigger roles. UConn also landed lead guard Aidan Mahaney (via Saint Mary's) in the transfer portal. Mahaney is regarded as a top-25 transfer in this year's cycle. He'll team up with incoming five-star freshman Liam McNeeley.