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Fever make it official, select Clark with No. 1 pick

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Monday, 15 April 2024 18:33

NEW YORK -- Caitlin Clark is officially a pro.

Clark, the record-breaking face of women's college basketball, was selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in the 2024 WNBA draft Monday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The draft was held in front of 1,000 fans, who bought all the tickets within 15 minutes of them going on sale a few months ago.

"I got a little anxious there before the pick," Clark said with a laugh during an interview with ESPN's Holly Rowe. "I dreamed of this moment since I was in second grade, and it's taken a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs, but more than anything, just trying to soak it in."

Los Angeles chose Stanford's Cameron Brink at No. 2. She'll get to stay in California and will give the Sparks a two-way player. The prolific scorer was also the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. The Sparks needed to replace franchise player Nneka Ogwumike, who left for Seattle in free agency.

Brink's godmother, Sonya Curry, is the mother of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.

"I FaceTimed Steph five minutes before the show started and he said have fun with it," Brink said. "He can share so much great advice since he's been through this. Make stuff like this fun as it can be stressed."

Brink is the third Stanford player selected in the top two of the WNBA draft, joining Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike. The only college with more is UConn.

Chicago had the third pick, which the Sky used to select South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Cardoso had a busy week, helping the Gamecocks win the national championship to complete an undefeated season. She took part in the team's championship parade on Sunday before traveling to New York.

The Sparks were back on the clock at No. 4 and chose Tennessee's Rickea Jackson, who was one of five SEC players to average at least 20 points and 5 rebounds in multiple seasons over the last 25 years. Jackson is one of two Tennessee players with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an NCAA tournament game, the other being Candace Parker, who began her career with the Sparks as well.

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 career highs in both scoring (17.6 PPG) and rebounding (9.2 PPG) in 2023-24.

The Sky then traded up to seventh to select LSU star Angel Reese, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player during LSU's national championship run in 2023. Reese had 61 double-doubles over the last two seasons, the most in Division I and second most in LSU history, trailing only Sylvia Fowles.

"I'm excited to play with Kamilla -- I've been playing against her since high school," said Reese, who is the highest pick LSU has had since Fowles in 2008 (second overall).

"She's a great player and I'm a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," the 6-foot-7 Cardoso said, laughing.

Minnesota, which had swapped picks with Chicago, drafted Alissa Pili of Utah eighth. Pili averaged 21.1 points over the past two seasons, which ranked fourth in Division I behind only Clark (29.7), Ta'Niya Latson (21.3) and McKenna Hofschild (21.3).

The Wings took Carla Leite of France with the ninth pick. Leïla Lacan, also from France, is headed to the Connecticut Sun at No. 10. The New York Liberty, who made the WNBA Finals last year, selected Marquesha Davis with the 11th pick. Davis becomes just the fourth Ole Miss player to be selected in the first round.

The Atlanta Dream closed out the first round by drafting Nyadiew Puoch of Australia. It's the fourth time in draft history that three or more international players were selected in the first round (2021, 2001, 2000).

Clark, a 6-foot-0 guard and West Des Moines, Iowa, native enters the league on top of the world. A two-time national player of the year, Clark ended her collegiate career with 3,951 points, the most in men's and women's Division I history, while propelling the Iowa Hawkeyes to back-to-back national title game appearances, their first in program history.

Her logo 3-pointers, highlight-reel assists and offensive firepower (she averaged 31.6 points per game as a senior, and 28.4 points for her career) have drawn sellout crowds in Iowa City and on the road, while shattering television ratings across a multitude of television networks and streaming platforms along the way.

She has her own cereal box, State Farm commercials and just this past weekend appeared as herself on "Saturday Night Live." Now, her biggest challenge, and biggest opportunity, awaits.

"I earned it, that's why I'm so proud of it," Clark told Rowe.

The Fever haven't appeared in the playoffs since 2016, the legendary Tamika Catchings' final season. But with Clark joining forces with last year's No. 1 overall pick in Aliyah Boston, the pairing of generational powers seems destined to change the trajectory of the franchise -- and possibly the league -- for the years to come.

Winners of the 2012 WNBA title, Indiana has languished since Catchings' retirement, sporting the worst winning percentage in the league since the start of the 2017 season despite selecting lottery picks in each of the last seven drafts. Four of those seven picks are no longer with the team.

Signs of progress emerged this past season with Boston, the franchise's first-ever No. 1 pick, in tow, as they won 13 games, tied for the most since Catchings' retirement. With Clark now in the mix, it seems well within reach for the franchise to snap what is currently the league's longest active streak missing the playoffs.

Clark, the only Division I women's player with more than 3,000 points and 1,000 assists, will have two similarly young but elite post targets in Boston, the reigning rookie of the year, and NaLyssa Smith, a 2022 lottery pick. After Clark developed strong chemistry with Iowa posts Monika Czinano and Hannah Stuelke, the connections she, Boston and Smith can form in Indianapolis are tantalizing prospects for Fever fans.

"The organization has one of the best post players in the entire world. My point guard eyes light up with that," Clark said.

Clark will also share the backcourt with two veteran guards in Kelsey Mitchell, No. 4 on the NCAA Division I all-time scoring list and a top 3-point shooter in the league last season, as well as returning point guard Erica Wheeler.

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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