Caitlin Clark, Fever are ‘perfect fit’ as Iowa star shifts to WNBA

Rebecca Lobo has been involved in the WNBA since its inception as a player and then as an analyst.

She has seen elite talent that dominated college basketball enter the league with varying degrees of hype.

But Lobo can never remember someone like Caitlin Clark, someone who became so unique that fans flocked to her.

“There’s no comparison on the women’s team. I’ve been in this league since the beginning,” the ESPN analyst and former Liberty star said ahead of Monday’s WNBA Draft. “I’ve never seen a player drive ticket sales like this. I’ve never seen a player drive ratings like this. Look at the ratings for the last four or five games she played. That’s what she’s been doing all season.

Caitlin Clark will likely be selected No. 1 overall in Monday’s 2024 WNBA Draft. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

“[I’ve] I had never seen anything like this before. And one of the things that’s special to me is that she’s staying in the Midwest. She goes to Indiana. It’s very perfect in that respect. ”

Clark led Iowa State to back-to-back national championships.

Last season, she became Division I’s all-time leading scorer, breaking the 54-year-old record held by “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Iowa State games became must-see events thanks to this sharp-shooting playmaker with endless range who helped grow the sport and bring in new fans.

This year’s women’s title game outpaced the men’s, with the South Carolina-Iowa victory drawing a record 18.9 million viewers.

Two nights before Clark is expected to be drafted No. 1 by the Indiana Fever at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Clark appeared on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” in the first draft with an audience in attendance. He was a guest on the corner. Michael Che and Colin Jost.

Clark mocked Choi’s recent joke mocking women’s sports and paid tribute to the great women’s basketball players of the past.

“I’m sure it’ll be a big step for me, but great players like Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Cynthia Cooper, the great Dawn Staley, and my basketball hero Maya. “This is just one step for the WNBA, thanks to Moore,” Clark said during the show. “It’s the women who kicked down the door for me to come in. So tonight I want to thank them for laying the foundation.”

Caitlin Clark and Iowa advanced to the national championship game, but were eliminated by South Carolina.
Caitlin Clark and Iowa advanced to the national championship game, but were eliminated by South Carolina. AP

This was definitely a first.

As Lobo said, Clark is unique in terms of popularity, the pressure she deals with, and her immense talent.

Leading up to a memorable season in which Clark averaged 31.6 points, 8.9 assists and 7.4 rebounds, all eyes were on her after Iowa State drew more than 55,000 fans to preseason games at its outdoor football stadium. It never left my back.

Staley, the University of South Carolina coach, publicly thanked Clark for all he has done for the sport during the championship ceremony.

“I know her shoulders are heavy because of what she has to give to women’s basketball,” Staley said. “We’re grateful for how she’s handled everything. Her next step is the WNBA – I think she can be someone who lifts us up.”

There will be incredible pressure on her from the get-go, as was the case last season at Iowa.

The hint came during the Final Four, when Phoenix Mercury legend Diana Taurasi told Clark and other college stars that “reality is upon us.”

Other players will almost certainly try to get her into the WNBA in their own way, trying to beat the hot rookie with incredible hype.

“You look superhuman playing against 18-year-olds, but you’re playing against grown women who have played professional basketball for a long time,” Taurasi said. “I’m not saying it won’t result, because if you’re good at what you’re doing, you’ll get even better. But there comes a transition period where as a rookie you have to give yourself some grace. It may take a little longer for some people.”