UConn basketball is obviously brimming with ebullience after becoming just the eighth team to win back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, but that does not change the fact that this is a challenging job. Despite making it look easy the past couple of seasons, head coach Dan Hurley has been faced with plenty of barriers that should have hindered him and his program.

Multiple important players from the 2023 title team left for the NBA last year, forcing others to carry more responsibilities this season. More stars and key contributors from this championship run are now leaving as well. Actually, following the latest news, UConn will have an entirely new starting five for the next campaign.

Stephon Castle is declaring for the 2024 NBA Draft, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The freshman guard nursed a knee injury early in the season but quickly proved himself to be a valuable two-way contributor for a Huskies squad that managed to be even more dominant than they were last March. He scored a team-high 21 points versus Alabama in the Final Four and enjoyed a solid showing against Purdue in the championship game (15 pts., five rebounds).

Although his shooting stroke needs some honing before a team can truly lean on him in the next level, there was never a doubt that Castle would be jumping to the NBA. He solidified his lottery-pick status and is currently predicted to be selected in the top 10 of many mock drafts.

His departure makes Hurley's offseason chore list more demanding, but the two-time champ is taking the time to celebrate this talented 19-year-old, whom he believes is one-of-a-kind.

“No Freshman impacted WINNING like this Champion,” Dan Hurley posted on X shortly after Stephon Castle officially made his decision. “His combination of talent, work ethic and humility…And GREAT parents!!”

Stephon Castle takes next step, Dan Hurley looks ahead at UConn

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley celebrates with Connecticut Huskies guard Stephon Castle (5) in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers in the national championship game of the Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Hurley of course has bias when it comes to his players, but his praise for Castle is one of the reasons why the former five-star recruit is expected to be taken early in the NBA Draft. With his 6-foot-6 frame, stalwart defense and solid rebounding (4.7 per game), Castle has a chance to help a team off the bench right away.

Although his 11.1 points per contest (47.2 percent shooting) do not seem like much for Hurley to replace, it is surely difficult to find a player with his natural instincts and versatile skill set. With Castle, Tristen Newton, Donovan Clingan, Alex Karaban and Cam Spencer all exiting Storrs, reshaping this team into a championship contender for the 2024-25 season will be exceedingly exhausting.

But that was the case during this past year, and Dan Hurley and the Huskies faced little adversity on the court. Though, keeping their three-peat aspirations alive is going to be far tougher without a top-25 recruiting class (currently ranked 27, per 247 Sports).

UConn basketball does not have an incoming five-star prospect in the 2024 class as of this moment but does boast an impressive four-star duo in the form of guard Ahmad Nowell and forward Isaiah Abraham. Furthermore, a loaded freshman class will get the opportunity to seize a big role next season. Michigan transfer Tarris Reed Jr. will do his best to fill the void left by Clingan.

So, there are trying times ahead but also plenty of reasons for optimism. In any case, no fan should utter a complaint after two years' worth of unmatched excellence. By winning national titles and helping his players reach the NBA Draft, Hurley is showing everyone that coaches can still have their cake and eat it too in the modern game.