Caitlin Clark to forgo final year at Iowa, enter WNBA draft

Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark announced on social media Thursday that she will be finishing her college career this year and won’t be coming back for a fifth season via the COVID-19 waiver.

Clark, who is projected as the WNBA’s No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever, broke the women’s major college scoring record Wednesday with a 33-point performance at Minnesota. She has 3,650 points and is 18 from passing LSU’s Pete Maravich, who holds the Division I overall record between men’s and women’s basketball with 3,667 points. Clark is 235 points shy of Pearl Moore (3,884 points), who set the AIAW overall/small-school record at Francis Marion from 1975 to 1979.

“While this season is far from over and we have a lot more goals to achieve, it will be my last one at Iowa,” Clark wrote. “I am excited to be entering the 2024 WNBA Draft.

“It is impossible for me to fully express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me during my time at Iowa — my teammates, who made the last four years the best; my coaches, trainers and staff who always let me be me; Hawkeye fans who filled Carver every night; and everyone who came out to support us across the country, especially young kids.”

Clark, who turned 22 in January, could have opted to stay in college another season because of the COVID waiver for the 2020-2021 campaign, her freshman year. Instead, she will move on to the pro game — the draft is April 15 and the season begins May 14 — where she is expected to join Aliyah Boston, last year’s No. 1 pick out of South Carolina, with the Fever. Indiana has not made the WNBA playoffs since 2016.

Clark, expected to repeat as national player of the year this season, has 17 triple-doubles in her career, second only to 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu, who had 26 for the Oregon Ducks from 2016 to 2020. Clark led Iowa to the Final Four last season for the second time in program history, and the Hawkeyes made the national championship game for the first time, falling to LSU.

Clark is leading Division I in scoring (32.2 points per game) and assists (8.7) and will play her final regular-season home game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday against Big Ten regular-season champion Ohio State. The Hawkeyes also project to be a top-16 seed in the NCAA tournament, so she could have an additional two games at home in the postseason.

“None of this would have been possible without my family and friends who have been by my side though it all,” Clark wrote on social media. “Because of you, my dreams came true.”

The 6-foot guard set the NCAA women’s scoring record, previously held by 2017 No. 1 draft pick Kelsey Plum, on Feb. 15 in Iowa City. She broke Lynette Woodard’s major college women’s mark of 3,649, set by the Kansas star from 1977 to 1981, during the AIAW era, before the NCAA took over governance of women’s sports.

Clark said in October that she expected to wait until the end of this season to decide if she wanted to return to college. Instead, she opted to make the announcement before senior day at Iowa on Sunday. Tickets for the game were already projecting as among the most expensive ever on the secondary market for a women’s game, with prices ranging from $408 to $5,199, according to Vivid Seats on Wednesday.

Clark, a native of West Des Moines, Iowa, opted to stay in her home state for college and it has paid off for her and the Hawkeyes. Iowa held a preseason game at Kinnick Stadium, home of the football Hawkeyes, that drew 55,646 fans in October. Every game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was sold out, as were many of Iowa’s games on the road. Clark has also capitalized on NIL deals that will carry over as she becomes a professional, including companies such as Nike, Gatorade and State Farm.

Clark this season became the first Division I women’s player to have at least 3,000 points and 1,000 assists. She is on pace to lead Division I in scoring for a third season. Of her 17 triple-doubles, six have been with 30 points or more, the most in Division I history.

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