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Caitlin Clark announces she will enter this spring’s WNBA draft


Iowa star Caitlin Clark All-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketballwill participate in this spring’s WNBA draft.

Arguably the biggest star in college basketball this season for either men or women, Clark is expected to be selected first in the draft. The Indiana Fever holds this pick after winning the WNBA Draft in December.

Clark, 22, is in her senior season with the Hawkeyes, but she had the option to return for another year. The NCAA granted an additional season of eligibility to most athletes on college rosters in 2020, when the corona virus The pandemic has disrupted the world of sport.

“While this season is far from over and we have many more goals to achieve, this will be my last at Iowa,” Clark said Thursday in a social media post sharing his announcement.

Iowa, the No. 6 team in the country, has one game left in its regular season, a highly anticipated home game Sunday against No. 2 Ohio State. While Clark attracted sellout crowds to Hawkeyes games, including away dates, ticket prices were already very high for the match against Buckeyes.

His announcement could make a spot Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City an even more coveted prize, especially since Clark is just 18 points away from breaking the all-time Division I scoring record. . directed by Pete Maravich of LSU from 1967 to 1970.

Clark is coming off another breakthrough performance, a 33-point outing Wednesday at Minnesota that allowed her to break a pre-NCAA scoring record for major women’s college basketball. directed by Lynette Woodard of Kansas from 1977 to 1981. Clark has 3,650 career points, while Maravich’s mark stands at 3,667.

After Sunday’s contest, Iowa is scheduled to compete in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament in Minneapolis. The Hawkeyes will next advance to the NCAA Tournament. They lost in championship match last season at LSU.

The WNBA Draft will take place on April 15 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Perhaps anticipating Clark’s inclusion, the league announcement that, for the first time in eight years, its proposed site will be able to accommodate around 1,000 fans. The Fever is the top pick for a second straight year, after using their selection last year to draft South Carolina star Aliyah Boston.

Just a few years ago, turning professional would have been a no-brainer for a college athlete as popular as Clark. But the new ability of Clark and others to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights while in college has changed those calculations.

It’s unclear how much Clark makes or how joining the WNBA might affect her NIL contracts. According to the WNBA salary structure (via the Spotrac database), this year’s No. 1 pick is projected to make $76,535, rising to $85,873 in 2026.

Weighing Clark’s zero winnings against what she will earn in the WNBA is also a guessing game. There is very little public data on what college athletes earn through NIL, whether they do it with big-brand contracts (like Clark) or donor-funded collectives (most commonly football and basketball players). men’s basketball).

Since schools and conferences are not yet allowed to pay athletes directly, college athletes do not receive any salaries from the organizations they represent. That means any projection of Clark’s profits in Iowa has to start there. And it’s conceivable, perhaps outside of very specific cases, that his brand contracts will spill over into his professional career, leading to a significant change in his financial equation.

In Iowa, that equation was a $0 salary plus brand deals with Nike, State Farm and many other companies. In the WNBA, it should be real salary plus all those contracts, plus whatever she might sign playing in a new market and professional league.

It could be argued, however, that playing a fifth year at Iowa would maximize an opportunity that will never happen again. She regularly sold out, at home and on the road. Looking at her decision from a financial perspective, would it make sense for her to stay in this environment and continue to accumulate contracts that would also allow her to continue her professional career? Maybe. But she built a strong portfolio in college, which should expand as she becomes one of the biggest names in the WNBA.

A 6-foot guard, Clark is averaging an NCAA-leading 32.2 points, well ahead of the 28.2 posted by Southern California freshman JuJu Watkins, who herself is well above No. 3 scorer, Notre Dame freshman Hannah Hidalgo (23.7). Clark also leads the nation in assists per game (8.7).

“It is impossible to fully express my gratitude,” Clark said in his statement Thursday, “to everyone who has supported me during my time at Iowa: my teammates, who have made these last four years the best ; my coaches, trainers and staff who always let me be myself; The Hawkeye fans who filled Carver every night; and all those who came to support us across the country, especially young children.

“Most importantly, none of this would have been possible without my family and friends who have been by my side throughout this ordeal,” she continued. “Thanks to all of you, my dreams have come true.”

Jesse Dougherty contributed to this report.


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