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Caitlin Clark declares for 2024 WNBA Draft

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Having rewritten the collegiate record book over four seasons at Iowa, Caitlin Clark announced Thursday that she is entering the upcoming WNBA Draft and forgoing the opportunity to return to the Hawkeyes for a fifth year.

Clark’s decision, which comes just days before Iowa’s final regular-season home game Sunday against No. 2 Ohio State, had been looming over both the college and professional games in recent weeks as she set both the women’s NCAA Division I and major college women’s basketball scoring records.

“This season is far from over and we have a lot more goals to achieve,” she said Thursday in a social media announcement. Yet Clark has cleared the way to become the No. 1 pick in the April draft for the Indiana Fever. Her professional debut is poised to be among the most anticipated in WNBA history.

From her first game with the Hawkeyes in 2020, Clark’s impact has been apparent. She scored 27 points in 26 minutes in her collegiate debut, flashing the offensive brilliance that has become commonplace through her career in Iowa City. She recorded the lone 40-point triple-double in NCAA Tournament history and is the only player in the NCAA era to record 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists. She has set program records for single-game scoring (49) and career points, having scored 3,650 points, while leading the Hawkeyes to two conference tournament championships and their first Final Four berth since 1993. Her team lost to Louisiana State in the NCAA final last season.

“It is impossible to fully express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me during my time at Iowa — my teammates, who made the last four years the best; my coaches, trainers and staff who always let me be me,” Clark said. “Hawkeye fans who filled Carver every night; and everyone who came out to support us across the country, especially the young kids.

“Most importantly, none of this would have been possible without my family and friends who have been by my side through it all. Because of all of you, my dreams came true.”

Beyond any counting stats, Clark’s impact can be seen and felt in the frenzy surrounding every game she plays. Of the Hawkeyes’ 32 regular-season contests this season, 30 either sold out or set arena attendance records for women’s basketball — the exceptions were Iowa’s neutral site games at a Thanksgiving tournament. Before Thursday’s announcement, the average price of admission for Iowa’s home finale against the Buckeyes was already said to be more than $555, according to TickPick, making it the most expensive women’s basketball game ever. That value should only increase following news of her decision. Clark’s presence also has brought record television ratings, as she and Iowa have participated in the most-watched women’s basketball game ever on six different networks.

The 6-foot guard began her senior season saying she was going to “treat this year like this is my last year.” She said she would make a decision about whether to stay in Iowa City or turn pro based on her gut. Holding an additional year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic she vowed not to let the choice to stay or go weigh on her. She reinforced that on Thursday, while still saying she was excited for what was to come. Clark currently leads the nation in points (32.2) and assists (8.7) per game, and is favored to take home Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.

In mid-December, when the Fever learned that they would hold the No. 1 pick for the second consecutive year, general manager Lin Dunn acknowledged that numerous potential draftees holding the option to return to school left “a little bit of question of who we might be able to get.” But Dunn said she would urge all players who can enter the WNBA to enter the W. “I’m ready for them to come out, come on into the pros, move on with their lives, let somebody else play. I’m encouraging all of them to come on out,” Dunn said.

Dunn, and those at the Fever, are no doubt euphoric at the opportunity to slot Clark onto their roster alongside 2023 No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston, who was the league’s unanimous Rookie of the Year last summer. “I think just how versatile she is,” Boston told The Athletic earlier this season about what makes Clark special. “Just her vision on the court. I think that’s super important, and I think she just does a great job with that at Iowa.”

Indiana, which has won just 18 games combined in the past two seasons, is looking to make its first postseason appearance since 2016 and to snap the longest active playoff drought in the league. In the immediate aftermath of Clark’s decision, the team’s social media accounts sent out a post reminding fans that season tickets were available, urging them to “hop on board.” Fever guard Erica Wheeler said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that she was already fielding requests from friends and family, as well as some people she had not heard from in a long time who wanted tickets. “I can’t help them,” she said.

Clark has already partnered with major brands like Gatorade, Nike and State Farm, and her national platform will travel with her from Iowa to Indiana. The WNBA stands to benefit from her presence as well. In its 27th season last summer, the league reached over 36 million total viewers across all national networks, up 27 percent from 2022 and its highest mark since 2008. The league’s All-Star Game was the most-watched in 16 years, and the 2023 WNBA Finals, featuring the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, was the most-watched in 20 years. Clark’s arrival, which will officially come on Monday, April 15, when the draft takes place in Brooklyn, will likely only accelerate that trend and the interest surrounding the sport.

“It’s great for women’s basketball. It’s going to be great for the WNBA when she comes in. Her game is going to translate,” Becky Hammon, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and the coach of the two-time defending champion Aces told The Athletic in mid-January. “She’s special. She’s generational.”

The Athletic’s James Boyd contributed to this report.

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(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)



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