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

Indiana Fever selects Caitlin Clark as No. 1 overall pick in WNBA Draft

Clark is the third athlete in program history to be drafted in the first round.
Grace Smith
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates a win during a women’s basketball game between No. 3 Iowa and Maryland at a sold-out Xfinity Center in College Park, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 93-85.

In second grade, Caitlin Clark was tasked with writing down her life goals: 

Own a restaurant. Win the lottery. Earn a basketball scholarship. Meet Maya Moore. 

But there’s one dream she wrote over a decade ago that is now more relevant than ever: Play in the WNBA. 

On Monday night, the 22-year-old point guard was selected by the Indiana Fever as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Clark is the third athlete in program history to be picked in the first round and the ninth Iowa player to be drafted during Lisa Bluder’s tenure.

“Being where I am now, I would tell my younger self, ‘You worked hard for this moment. You earned this moment. It was never given to you,’” Clark said in a video posted by IowaWBB on X, formerly Twitter. 

Clark’s rookie contract includes a four-year, $338,056 deal, according to Spotrac. Clark is slated to earn $76,535 in 2024, $78,066 in 2025, $85,873 in 2026, and $97,582 in 2027. Each player drafted in the first round has a fourth-year team option, meaning the franchise that drafted them decides whether the contract stretches beyond the third season.

Plus, with Clark’s celebrity status, she could have the opportunity to make up to $250,000 per year on a Player Marketing Agreement, or PMA, as early as her first season, according to IndyStar’s Chloe Peterson. PMAs allow the league to pay players for being brand ambassadors for the WNBA and its partners year-round.

With only 12 teams in the WNBA, though, it is harder to claim a roster spot. Out of the 36 athletes who were drafted last year, only 15 made an opening day roster, according to Front Office Sports. 

Clark will try to prove her game is roster-worthy starting with training camp on April 28. The Fever will play a preseason game against the Dallas Wings on May 3, and the first regular season contest is on May 14 against the Connecticut Sun. After being drafted, Clark told reporter Holly Rowe on ESPN that if she stays true to herself and has fun, the wins and other accomplishments will come. 

“Just do me, have fun, smile. I’ve loved playing basketball since I was a little girl, and that’s not going to change,” Clark told Rowe.

With Clark’s stellar court vision and lethality from beyond the arc, she has a good chance to join the Fever’s starting lineup. Other expected starters are reigning Rookie of the Year center Aliyah Boston, forwards NaLyssa Smith and Katie Lou Samuelson, and 2023 All-Star guard Kelsey Mitchell. Clark and Boston are expected to be a lethal duo, reminiscent of Clark and Monika Czinano’s connection at Iowa.

“Getting to play with Aliyah lights your eyes up as a point guard,” Clark told ESPN during the draft.

The former Hawkeye could also help spread out the floor, as last season, Mitchell was the only Fever player to attempt more than 100 3-pointers. Clark made 201 triples and attempted over 500 in her final season with the Hawkeyes. 

According to IndyStar’s Chloe Peterson, Clark’s biggest competition for the point guard starting role will be Erica Wheeler, who is in the final season of a two-year, near-max contract. Wheeler started last season and averaged 9.9 points and 5.0 assists per game.

It’s also possible that Clark won’t make a roster or have a good start to her pro career. Current and past WNBA players like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have voiced how much more physical the league is compared to college. Because there are only 12 teams and 144 total players in the WNBA, Sue told ESPN that “people learn your weaknesses so fast.” Now a back-to-back WNBA Champion, Kelsey Plum didn’t earn All-Star status until five years after being drafted. Sabrina Ionescu, the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles, took three years to become an All-Star. 

“The league is loaded with so many people, and I think that’s something that I’ve always had a knack for,” Clark told ESPN in a pre-draft interview on Monday. “I think once I really start playing with my teammates, they kind of can read me too and read my eyes. So, you know, I love playing with good post players. I love playing with a good guard, good wing. So that’s what this league is all about.”

While Clark’s opponents will work to exploit her weaknesses on the court, just like they do with any other rookie, some players are looking forward to competing against the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. 

“Anybody who says, ‘Oh, she’s not that great,’ is downright completely dense. She’s a threat. She’s a threat in so many different ways, but she’s also lifting the tides,” Nneka Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012 and a current power forward for the Seattle Storm, told ESPN.  “Personally I’m excited to play against her. I’ve never played against someone like her. Plus, I want to get better.”

The Caitlin Clark Effect had already translated to the pros before the star guard’s name was called on Monday night. With Clark as the face of college basketball, Iowa broke numerous viewership records this season across national networks. Just like in college, Clark’s presence in the WNBA is expected to attract more viewers to the league. 

The Indiana Fever will have 36 of its 40 total games on national television during the 2024 season, the most of all WNBA teams, the league announced. The Las Vegas Aces are second in nationally televised games with 35, while the New York Liberty sit in third with 31. Last season when the Fever went 13-27, Indiana’s schedule included just one nationally televised game, per BleacherReport. 

After Clark announced she was declaring for the draft, site traffic to the Fever home page spiked 180 percent overnight, and the average listed price for Indiana’s home opener increased 303 percent. 

Along with the high demand to see Clark’s unique playing style came more expensive entry fees to watch the star rookie perform. Indiana’s average ticket price doubled from last season, going from $60 to $140 on VividSeats. The Las Vegas Aces already moved their July 2 game against Clark and the Fever to T-Mobile Arena, which can hold 18,000 fans. The Aces typically play at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, a 12,000-seat complex. 

According to FanDuel, Clark has the fourth-highest odds to win the 2024 WNBA MVP at +1200, trailing A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, and Alyssa Thomas.

“Honestly, you can never take away what Caitlin has already done for women’s basketball, the impact she’s had, the eyeball she’s bringing,” Bird told ESPN. “What I hope is that that continues. I hope all the people Caitlin has brought to the league will stay because they love and appreciate her and want to see how her first WNBA season goes. But I also hope they stay because they’re seeing the high level, right? The high level that is the WNBA.”

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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.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.