NBA

‘Once in a lifetime’: What Caitlin Clark said after being selected at No. 1 in the WNBA draft

Apr 16, 2024, 10:54 AM

Clark Fever jerseys are in high demand. (Brian Babineau, NBAE via Getting Images)...

Clark Fever jerseys are in high demand. (Brian Babineau, NBAE via Getting Images)

(Brian Babineau, NBAE via Getting Images)

(CNN) Few things in professional sports have ever been as certain as Caitlin Clark being selected as the No. 1 overall in the 2024 WNBA draft.

The former Iowa Hawkeyes star – now the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer in men’s and women’s basketball and women’s record holder for most points scored in a single season – will start her professional career with the Indiana Fever.

Clark, who helped attract record-breaking TV audiences and sellout crowds in arenas around the country in her final collegiate season, says she is most looking forward to bringing her passing ability to the Fever, a part of her game she believes “gets overlooked.”

The 22-year-old is especially relishing the chance to team up with Fever forward Aliyah Boston, who was named the unanimous 2023 WNBA Rookie of the Year after also being picked No. 1 in the draft last year.

“I think the scoring and the long shots is what everybody falls in love with,” Clark said. “Then, obviously, going to an organization that has, in my eyes, one of the best post players in the entire world [Boston].

“My point guard eyes just light up at that. And obviously, Aliyah has been one of my teammates before [on the Under-19 Team USA squad]. I’m excited. I can’t wait.

“There’s so much you can say about her: Rookie of the Year, in my eyes, one of the best players in the league. Like I said, as a point guard, my biggest job is I’m just feeding Aliyah the ball every single day. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be in there and be like, ‘Go make a layup.’ She’s going to make my life easy.

“She’s incredible, but the thing I love about her is she’s a great person. She loves the game, she knows the game, she supports the game and she has a smile that affects a lot of people and brings a lot of joy to people when they watch her. I can’t wait to be her teammate again.”

‘Insane’ recent time for Clark

Clark says the past few weeks have been “pretty insane.”

She was only able to spend two days at home – enough time for a home-cooked meal from her mom – after losing to South Carolina in the NCAA Championship Game, before flying to Los Angeles and then New York for Monday’s draft.

“I think the biggest thing is I’m just very lucky to be in this moment and all these opportunities and these things, they’re once in a lifetime,” she says, reflecting on a whirlwind couple of months.

“When things might get tiring or you have to do stuff, I think the biggest thing is look at it just as an opportunity. This isn’t something everybody gets to do. It’s once in a lifetime, and just trying to soak in every single experience because I know how quick of a turnaround it is, and I have a lot of people helping me.”

Clark has been filming a documentary for ESPN and Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions – where she also acts as an executive producer – and features alongside new Chicago Sky draftee Kamilla Cardoso and UCLA Bruins star Kiki Rice.

“If you’re a women’s basketball fan or you’re not a women’s basketball fan, I encourage you to watch the show when it comes out,” Clark says. “I’ve seen bits and pieces. It’s absolutely amazing.

“It really allows you to understand the student-athlete for way more than just a basketball player, and I think that’s really important.”

It’s one of many off-court ventures Clark has been pursuing alongside her basketball career, including sponsorships, name, image and likeness (NIL) deals and business opportunities.

She is undoubtedly one of the most marketable athletes in the US, with her new Fever jersey reportedly selling out the same night she was drafted.

Clark says her experience in juggling multiple areas of her life – as well as coping with high levels of pressure and expectation in college – will stand her in good stead in the WNBA.

“If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year,” she explained.

“Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them.

“My mom has done a lot, my dad has done a lot. I think that’s just the biggest thing. The advice I would say is just lean on the people around you,” added Clark.

“I don’t have to do every single thing. In college, I always said my main focus is on basketball. That’s why I’ve had every other opportunity in my life, is because of the way I carry myself, the way I play the game.

“Going into my professional career, I plan to do the exact same thing. My focus is solely on basketball, being the best I can.”

Clark is graduating from Iowa on May 14 and she says it’s “pretty exciting” not having to go to school anymore, adding that “110% focus” is now on her professional basketball career.

She goes to a team that hasn’t enjoyed much winning in recent years, with the Fever’s last playoff appearance coming back in 2016, where they lost in the first round to the Phoenix Mercury.

Clark says the main goal for the team is to “get back to championship habits.”

“I’m very lucky to be going there to an organization that really loves women’s basketball,” she says. “You see it today, I think they had 17,000 tickets claimed to just watch the draft. I think that shows the excitement in Indianapolis. It’s a great basketball city.

“Obviously, what the Pacers have been able to do this year is special, in the playoffs. I think I’m just excited. Like you said, there’s a lot of young talent on the team, and just getting back to the playoffs and doing everything we can to win a lot of basketball games is certainly the goal.”

The new WNBA season gets under way on May 14, with training camps beginning on April 28 and pre-season games on May 3.

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‘Once in a lifetime’: What Caitlin Clark said after being selected at No. 1 in the WNBA draft