Caitlin Clark: to stay in Iowa or go to the WNBA… H

Apr 2, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) brings the ball up court against the LSU Lady Tigers in the second half during the final round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark isn’t ready to decide if she’ll return for a fifth season in 2024-25 or head to the WNBA.

“I’m going to go based off of my gut,” Clark said. “At the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing that I think I should trust. … I’m going to know when I need to know if I want to stay or if I want to go.”

Clark compared her decision for next year to being recruited out of high school. The 21-year-old said she knew there were several “good” options for where to play college basketball, but she chose Iowa because it felt right.

“It’s really not something I think about every single day,” Clark said of her upcoming decision. “It’s not something I let weigh on me. I’m focused on helping this team be the best team they can be, and when I know that decision, all of you will know. I think the biggest thing will be I’m just going to trust my gut and go with that.”

Clark returns to Iowa this fall for her senior season after leading the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA title game appearance in April, where they lost to LSU. Last month, she won the 93rd AAU James E. Sullivan Award, given annually to the most outstanding athlete at the collegiate or Olympic level in the United States.

Expectations will be off the charts for Clark and for Iowa this year. Through three seasons and 100 games, Clark has 2,717 points. She averaged 27.8 points and 8.6 assists per game last year.

If Clark leaves Iowa for the 2024 WNBA Draft, she is projected to be the No. 1 pick. LSU star Angel Reese, whom Clark faced in the NCAA title game, will also be eligible to enter the WNBA in 2024.

Why go to the WNBA?

If Clark has even a typical season, she will have accomplished more individually than any player in women’s collegiate basketball history. Clark should end up as the leading scorer in women’s basketball history, surpassing Washington’s Kelsey Plum, who scored 3,527 points from 2014 to 2017.

Clark led the nation with 1,055 points to break the Big Ten single-season record and became the first player in women’s basketball history with more than 1,000 points and 300 assists in the same season. Clark is an extreme competitor. The only way to test herself would be against the world’s best basketball players. — Scott Dochterman, Iowa writer

Why stay at Iowa for Year 5?

This could come down to a heart versus brain decision for Clark. She is by far the most popular athlete in Iowa, if not in collegiate sports.

The only athlete more revered in Iowa history is perhaps Nile Kinnick. It’s not just because of her athletic prowess; it’s her efficacy. She’s a positive, energetic person who engages anyone from eight weeks to 80 years.

Clark also has several high-level NIL deals ranging from Nike and Buick to Bose and grocery chain Hy-Vee.

With an engine like the University of Iowa and the Big Ten behind her, Clark could have more earning potential and be more recognizable in college than as a professional athlete.

Every ticket for Iowa women’s basketball is sold out, and at Big Ten road venues, Iowa’s nine opponents averaged 3,482 more fans than their season average.

“I want her to come back. Everybody wants her to come back,” women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. “But it’s her choice.” — Dochterman

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