The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa women’s basketball’s Caitlin Clark reflects on college career after loss to South Carolina in national championship

Clark said choosing to be a Hawkeye was “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark looks across the court during a NCAA Championship game between No. 1 Iowa and No. 1 South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. The Gamecocks defeated the Hawkeyes, 87-75.

CLEVELAND — Lisa Bluder and her staff had to “work hard” to get Caitlin Clark to Iowa.

She was the No. 4 recruit in the country and had an opportunity to take her talents to big-name programs like Notre Dame, Louisville, and Texas.

But Clark didn’t take the easy route, the one where she would have the best chance to become a national champion surrounded by a roster of other five-star athletes.

She joined a program that hadn’t made a Final Four in nearly 30 years. A program just a two-hour drive from her hometown that she was destined to put in the national conversation. Reflecting on her career, Clark said being an Iowa Hawkeye was “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

“I really think that when she came in as a freshman and she said, ‘We’re going to the Final Four,’ a lot of people laughed at her and maybe even laughed at her for coming to Iowa, quite honestly,” Bluder recalled on Sunday about Clark’s commitment. “But she believed, and she got everybody else in that locker room to believe, and that’s not an easy thing to do.”

Clark’s collegiate career ended on Sunday with a loss to South Carolina in the national championship, the Hawkeyes’ second straight time making it to the final possible game of the season. Iowa’s 65 wins during Clark’s junior and senior seasons is the best two-year stretch in program history.

She is leaving Iowa without a ring, but her most fond memories as a Hawkeye stretch far beyond wins and losses. If Clark and her teammates brought joy to a single person throughout her career, she’s satisfied. The 22-year-old has “so much to be thankful for outside of basketball.”

“I’m proud of the way I’ve carried myself,” Clark reflected on her career. “It’s certainly been hard at times, to always be in the spotlight and have everybody’s eyeballs on you. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. The positive and the negative. I’m so lucky. I’m so fortunate.”

When Clark says “everybody’s eyeballs” are on her, she isn’t exaggerating.

Iowa’s Final Four win over UConn drew over 14 million viewers, making it the most-watched basketball game ever on ESPN. Before the season started, 55,000 people came to watch an exhibition game versus DePaul at Kinnick Stadium. Carver-Hawkeye Arena was sold out for every home game, and if you wanted to see the Hawkeyes play on the road, it was just as difficult to get in the door.

Clark, who has gained over 1 million followers on social media, is seen on TV even when she’s not on the court. She’s starred in State Farm commercials, Nike ads, and Gatorade promotions. She’s been mentioned on Saturday Night Live and has other top athletes like Lebron James, Steph Curry, and Patrick Mahomes commenting on her playing style.

The star point guard said she was going through some old pictures on Saturday night and looking at the “incredible” transformation in support of women’s basketball since her first two years in college. Drapes used to hang from the Carver ceiling to block out all the empty seats. The Iowa women hardly played a game on cable television before Clark blew up. Gabbie Marshall said Clark “put Iowa on the map.”

Seriously, everybody’s eyeballs are on No. 22.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said after winning the national title. “And it’s not going to stop here on the collegiate tour but when she is the number one pick in the WNBA Draft, she’s going to lift that league up as well. So, Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you’re one of the GOATs (Greatest Of All Time) of our sport.”

Bluder said it’s hard to process not having Clark on her team anymore, a player she’s had to adjust her coaching style to and walk the line “between discipline and don’t put out the fire.” She thinks Clark’s legacy at Iowa will breed further success for the program and have a positive impact on recruiting, as the Hawkeyes have “opened up our geographic footprint.”

However, the head coach does have a specific concern for the program post-Clark.

“I pray that our team will still get the fan support even when Caitlin leaves,” Bluder said. “We’re going to have some growing pains next year. But I hope that people respect the way that we play, the way that we do things, and they’re going to want to support this young group of Hawkeyes next year, just as much as they have after the success we’ve had the last couple of years.”

Clark has about a week before she moves to a different state, likely still in the Midwest, and opens a new chapter in her career. She is projected to go to the Indiana Fever as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft on April 15.

“I know what’s next is soon,” Clark said. “But at the same time, I’m not blind to the fact that I need to enjoy this, I need to soak this in and enjoy these last few moments with my teammates because these are some of my best friends. They’ll be my best friends for the rest of my life, and that’s what matters to me the most.”

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Kenna Roering
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.