Caitlin Clark: “Yeah, I’m sad we lost this game. But I’m also so proud of myself. I’m so proud of my teammates. I’m so proud of this program,” she said.

Caitlin Clark on making time for her young fans: ‘That never gets old’

The college basketball star shares what it means to her to inspire the next generation of players.

Caitlin Clark doesn’t take her role as one of the biggest college athletes lightly.

The star Iowa Hawkeyes player, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, spoke with TODAY and opened up about inspiring the next generation of young athletes.

In a preview clip from the interview, which airs April 15, Clark shares who she looked up to as a child and how she hopes to have that impact on the kids who watch her play.

“The people I idolized in my life were, you know, either professional women’s basketball players, professional soccer players, and that’s what I wanted to be growing up,” she says ahead of the WNBA draft April 15. “And I think, you know, understanding how big of an impact that can have on a young girl’s life is super important.”

Clark continues, “So I always try to make as much time as I can for them. And just to see them scream your name or have your jersey on — that’s something that never gets old.”

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - Final Four PreviewsCaitlin Clark.Steph Chambers / Getty Images

The WNBA draft comes about a week after her historic college basketball career came to an end.

Her Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks in a 87-75 defeat in the NCAA women’s championship game April 7.

Clark began the game with an impressive 18 points in the first quarter and ended with a game high 30 points — but it wasn’t enough to secure the victory. The Hawkeyes experienced back-to-back losses in the championship after losing to LSU, 102-85, in 2023.

Although she didn’t add an NCAA championship to her resume, Clark still has plenty of proud moments from her college career to celebrate. The 22-year-old guard broke a 54-year-old record in March and became the all-time leading scorer, male or female, in NCAA Division I basketball history. She passed LSU star “Pistol Pete” Maravich who previously held the record with 3,667 points.

She was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year for a third consecutive season.

Clark’s talents have been celebrated by basketball legends. As South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley gave a speech about her team’s win on April 7, she included a few remarks about Clark.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport. She carried a heavy load for our sport. And it’s just not going to stop on a collegiate tour but when she’s the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft,” she said.

Staley continued, “She’s going to lift that league up as well. So Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you are one of the GOATs of our game. We appreciate you.”

After the loss, Clark said in a press conference that the game was “more special than last year.”

“Yeah, I’m sad we lost this game. But I’m also so proud of myself. I’m so proud of my teammates. I’m so proud of this program,” she said.

Clark revealed on social media in February that she was entering the 2024 WNBA draft. She is expected to be drafted by the Indiana Fever, who have the No. 1 draft pick, on April 15.

Although her college career is over, her time in a Hawkeyes uniform won’t be forgotten.

On April 10, the team announced on X that her jersey will be retired.

“There will never be another @CaitlinClark22 & there will never be another (22). The #Hawkeyes will retire Clark’s No. 22,” the team tweeted.

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