Caitlin Clark: The Rising Star of Women’s Basketball
CHARLOTTE — A television camera operator peers around the curtain that leads to the spectrum Center floor. He turns back with an announcement for his utility man holding the cable — “She’s coming!” From the arena, the swell of squeals from the young kids can still be heard, still excited after witnessing the memorable 44-point performance from college basketball’s most important player. Excited whispers in the dark hallway convey a sense of anticipation, everyone eagerly waiting to experience greatness up close. Three photographers behind a black velvet rope silently focus on getting the shots to feed the insatiable appetite for more and more content.
Yes, Caitlin Clark is coming, striding down the hallway and into the sanctum of the visiting team’s locker room. The neutral-site game in November, where 15,196 energized fans showed up for the Ally Tipoff, saw the remarkable display of talent from this sensational athlete. Surely, anyone in the WNBA who noticed the scene at this game would love to hear that announcement soon.
Who knows if this season at Iowa is The Last Dance, Caitlin’s version. As a four-year senior on the cusp of becoming her game’s career leading scorer, she epitomizes what’s possible for a college star in the name, image, and likeness era with a team of sports agents and sponsorship deals with Nike, Bose, State Farm, and more. Because she started college during the covid year and began playing in front of cardboard cutouts filling the seats, she still has a year of eligibility remaining. Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said, “She stays in the moment. We always talk a lot about it: Be where your feet are. She’s being here right now. She doesn’t have to make a decision right now. I wouldn’t want her making a decision right now. I mean, I want her to be able to enjoy the year and then decide at the end of the year.”
In Iowa’s pregame hype video that could rival an NBA team’s production, Hawkeye players are featured on a stage, along with orchestra musicians. When Clark appears in the video, she does that thing where she spreads her arms — the “Are you not entertained?” pose — and Hawkeye fans watching roar as though they’re witnessing swagger for the first time. The hype video ends: Welcome To The Show.
Whether in video or on the floor, Clark is The Show. When her No. 3 Hawkeyes are flowing just right, she’s the conductor of their symphony. The ball zips, players move, and Clark herself keeps shooting, even through cold spells. The Iowa-native said, “I grew up a fan of women’s basketball and I’ve always understood there’s really great players in this game that’s really fun to watch.” On Thursday night, Clark missed plenty, but that did not ruin The Show. Clark is the main draw, and that’s the kind of show the WNBA could use.
This season, the WNBA boasted of a 16-percent attendance increase from the previous year. Wherever Clark goes, the crowd comes along. The same for LSU senior Angel Reese, who already has all the cache and star power, Reese also will play all of her home games in front of sellout crowds. However, let’s not compare Clark and Reese to the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird just yet. But the prospects look exciting.
The WNBA should consider expanding in places like Iowa, given the potential mainstream interest that Clark could bring to the pros. But Clark remains modest amidst all the attention— “It’s very hard to wrap my head around the environments that I get to play in, but I never take it for granted. We’re very far from home, and we still have an incredible crowd and many young girls that are screaming our names.”
Caitlin Clark is coming, and wherever she goes, women’s basketball is better for it.
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.