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Indiana Fever select Iowa’s Caitlin Clark No. 1 in 2024 WNBA draft

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Indiana Fever select Iowa's Caitlin Clark No. 1 in 2024 WNBA draft

NEW YORK — Caitlin Clark is formally a professional.

Clark, the record-breaking face of ladies’s school basketball, was chosen No. 1 general by the Indiana Fever within the 2024 WNBA draft Monday night time on the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The draft was held with followers for the primary time for the reason that 2014-2016 iterations of the occasion. Tickets for 1,000 spectators bought out inside quarter-hour of occurring sale just a few months in the past.

Clark’s coronation was lengthy anticipated after she introduced in late February she was headed to the league as an alternative of utilizing her further yr of collegiate eligibility.

However that did not make the second any much less particular for Clark, her family members, her Iowa household and the ecstatic followers who packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse again in Indianapolis to see her maintain up a Fever jersey on the jumbotron.

“If you’re simply sitting at a desk ready on your identify to be known as, that actually permits the feelings to feed you,” Clark mentioned. “You are with your loved ones. Clearly, enjoying a basketball sport, I am not on the market with my household. So sharing that second with them and having fun with it, and those who have actually had my again and believed in me greater than anybody, is tremendous particular.”

The Los Angeles Sparks, rebuilding following the departure of Nneka Ogwumike in free company, chosen two gamers within the lottery: Stanford’s Cameron Brink at No. 2 and Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson at No. 4. Brink joins Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike because the third Stanford participant chosen within the high two of the WNBA draft and is this system’s fifteenth first-rounder.

“I really like that I get to remain on the West Coast, and I really like that they took an opportunity on me,” Brink mentioned. “I really feel like I am simply going to indicate that I can work actually laborious and assist them rather a lot. But in addition, I will be near household, which is absolutely essential for me.”

Jackson, who began her profession at Mississippi State, is Tennessee’s nineteenth first-round decide, the second most in WNBA draft historical past.

The Chicago Sky made a splash in deciding on South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso (No. 3) and LSU’s Angel Reese (No. 7), the 2024 and 2023 Last 4 Most Excellent Gamers, respectively. Cardoso helped the Gamecocks win their third nationwide championship to finish an undefeated season, then attended the group’s championship parade Sunday earlier than touring to New York.

“She’s an important participant, and I am an important participant,” Cardoso mentioned of Reese, somebody she performed in opposition to in highschool and in SEC play. “No person’s going to get no rebounds on us,” she added with fun.

In a brand new period with WNBA legend Teresa Weatherspoon on the helm, the Sky swapped picks with Minnesota on Sunday to draft seventh.

Reese’ 61 double-doubles over the previous two seasons had been essentially the most in Division I and second most in LSU historical past, behind solely Sylvia Fowles. Reese — who rose to superstardom in main the Tigers to their first nationwide championship in 2023 — is LSU’s highest decide since Fowles (No. 2 general in 2008).

“Understanding the conversations had been so good and [Weatherspoon] felt like a mom to me,” Reese mentioned. “Having the ability to be a Black lady and as a head coach, and all the pieces she’s completed on the NBA degree, I simply knew all the pieces they had been bringing to the desk. Jeff [Pagliocca], the GM, was superb, too, and participant growth is one thing that I used to be on the lookout for and so they regarded for in me. I am tremendous excited for this transfer, and I am simply wanting ahead to attending to Chicago.”

With the ladies’s school sport exploding in recognition as gamers corresponding to Clark and Reese grew to become family names, the arrival of the 2024 draft class is broadly regarded to be a possible watershed second for the WNBA.

“It is a generational class,” Jackson mentioned. “I really feel like this class is simply so totally different. I do know this class is totally different. … Girls’s basketball is on an uproar. Everyone is tuning in. … I am grateful to be part of this draft class. I really feel like we’re simply trending in the best course.”

Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon went fifth to the Dallas Wings, and the Washington Mystics took UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards at No. 6. Edwards put up profession highs in each scoring (17.6 factors per sport) and rebounding (9.2) in 2023-24.

Minnesota drafted Alissa Pili of Utah eighth. Pili averaged 21.1 factors over the previous two seasons, which ranked fourth in Division I behind solely Clark (29.7), Ta’Niya Latson (21.3) and McKenna Hofschild (21.3).

The New York Liberty, who made the WNBA Finals final yr, chosen Marquesha Davis with the eleventh decide. Davis turns into simply the fourth Ole Miss participant to be chosen within the first spherical.

Three worldwide gamers had been additionally chosen within the first spherical: Carla Leite of France (No. 9 to Dallas), Leïla Lacan of France (No. 10 to the Connecticut Solar) and Nyadiew Puoch of Australia (No. 12 to the Atlanta Dream). It marks the fourth time three or extra worldwide gamers had been chosen within the first spherical of the WNBA draft (2021, 2001, 2000).

Clark, a 6-foot guard and West Des Moines, Iowa, native, enters the league on high of the world. A two-time nationwide participant of the yr, she ended her collegiate profession with 3,951 factors, essentially the most in males’s and girls’s Division I historical past, whereas propelling the Iowa Hawkeyes to back-to-back nationwide title sport appearances, their first in program historical past.

Her brand 3-pointers, highlight-reel assists and offensive firepower (she averaged 31.6 factors as a senior, and 28.4 factors for her profession) have drawn sellout crowds in Iowa Metropolis and on the highway, whereas shattering tv rankings throughout a mess of networks and streaming platforms alongside the best way.

She has her personal cereal field and State Farm commercials, and simply this previous weekend she appeared as herself on “Saturday Evening Dwell.” Now, her greatest problem, and largest alternative, awaits.

The Fever have not appeared within the playoffs since 2016, the legendary Tamika Catchings’ last season. However with Clark becoming a member of forces with final yr’s No. 1 general decide, Aliyah Boston, the pairing appears destined to vary the trajectory of the franchise — and probably the league — for the years to come back.

Winners of the 2012 WNBA title, Indiana has languished since Catchings’ retirement, sporting the worst profitable share within the league for the reason that begin of the 2017 season regardless of deciding on lottery picks in every of the previous seven drafts. 4 of these seven picks are now not with the group.

Indicators of progress emerged this previous season with Boston, the franchise’s first No. 1 decide, because the Fever received 13 video games, tied for essentially the most since Catchings’ retirement. With Clark now within the combine, snapping the longest energetic playoff drought appears effectively inside attain.

“That is positively our objective, is to get again to championship habits,” Clark mentioned, joking that though Indiana Hoosiers followers did not love her when she was at Iowa, she hopes to show them into Fever followers now. “I am very fortunate to be going there to a company that actually loves girls’s basketball. You see it right this moment, I believe that they had 17,000 tickets claimed to simply watch the draft. I believe that reveals the joy in Indianapolis. It is an important basketball metropolis.

“For myself, I am unable to think about a extra excellent match, a greater place for me to start out my skilled profession, a company that actually simply believes in girls’s basketball and needs to do all the pieces the best method. So I could not be extra excited to get there.”

Fever basic supervisor Lin Dunn shared Clark’s sentiment.

“It is an ideal match for us,” Dunn mentioned. “She’s from the Huge Ten, the Midwest — is there anywhere higher for her than Indianapolis, Indiana? I am unable to consider it.”

Dunn was requested concerning the franchise having back-to-back No. 1 picks, as was the case when she was basic supervisor of the Seattle Storm with Lauren Jackson (2001) and Sue Chook in (2002).

“Effectively, it would not occur fairly often. And so when it does occur — and you’ll look again traditionally — it normally implies that it results in championships,” Dunn mentioned. “I believe that is the start of us getting again on observe to win one other championship right here. Once we had been in a position to put Chook and Jackson collectively — an important level guard and an important submit participant — we had been in a position to take off in Seattle, and I believe that might occur right here if you put Clark with Boston.”

Clark, the one Division I girls’s participant with greater than 3,000 factors and 1,000 assists, may have two equally younger however elite submit targets in Boston, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Yr, and NaLyssa Smith, a 2022 lottery decide. After Clark developed sturdy chemistry with Iowa submit gamers Monika Czinano and Hannah Stuelke, the connections she, Boston and Smith can kind in Indianapolis are tantalizing prospects for Fever followers.

“Going to a company that has, in my eyes, the most effective submit gamers in the whole world. My level guard eyes simply gentle up at that,” Clark mentioned of Boston. “My greatest job is I am simply feeding Aliyah the ball each single day. That is what I’ll do. I’ll be in there and be like, go make a layup. She’s going to make my life straightforward.”

Clark will even share the backcourt with two veteran guards in Kelsey Mitchell, No. 4 on the NCAA Division I all-time scoring listing and a high 3-point shooter within the league final season, in addition to returning level guard Erica Wheeler.

“I am 22 years previous, and I haven’t got all of the solutions on this planet,” Clark mentioned. “That is one thing new to me. It is a new problem. That is one thing I am excited for. However having these kind of individuals round me to lean on and ask questions, or when issues get laborious, to be there for me.”

Of the opposite prospects invited to the draft Monday: UConn’s Nika Muhl was taken with the second decide of the second spherical by the Storm; Ohio State’s Celeste Taylor is headed to Indiana after being chosen No. 15 general; Syracuse’s Dyaisha Truthful (No. 16) — who completed her collegiate profession third on the all-time Division I girls’s profession factors listing behind solely Clark and Kelsey Plum — and Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley (No. 24) had been chosen by the Las Vegas Aces; and UCLA’s Charisma Osborne was picked with the primary decide of the third spherical by the Phoenix Mercury.

Iowa’s Kate Martin, within the crowd to assist teammate Clark, was additionally chosen No. 18 general by the Aces.

ESPN’s Michael Voepel and ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this report.

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