‘It’s going to take time’: Lauren Jackson defends ‘future GOAT’ Caitlin Clark. She needs to adapt when changing the level of competition

‘It’s going to take time’: Lauren Jackson defends ‘future GOAT’ Caitlin Clark

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Former WNBA No.1 draft pick Lauren Jackson has called for patience as ‘future GOAT’ Caitlin Clark adjusts to the brutal, physical nature of the league.

College sensation Clark made her much-awaited debut for Indiana Fever this week and despite top scoring with 20 points (going 4/11 from the three) attracted headlines and some criticism for setting a new record for most turnovers (10) by a WNBA player in their first game.

In just her second game, the 22-year-old guard flirted with a triple double (nine points, seven rebounds, six assists) against New York Liberty on Friday.

A three-time league MVP, dual champion and seven-time All-Star, Jackson, who was drafted by Seattle Storm with the first pick of the 2001 draft, told ESPN the jump from college, or any other professional league, was massive and couldn’t be underestimated.

“Caitlin Clark will be the next GOAT, she really is going to be one of the greats of the game, there is no doubt about it and I don’t think anyone would question that, because of the way she plays, the way she moves and the way she sees the game,” Jackson said.

“But it’s going to take time. Some of the best players in that league, it’s taken time for them to really develop their game, their strength and bodies and understand the WNBA is a whole new level of physicality.

“It’s learning how you’re going to cope with that physically and mentally and then doing it night after night after night, there’s no days off and then the travel, it’s hectic and it’s hard but that’s what makes you resilient and what makes the best players in the world, and that’s what Caitlin will become.

“I don’t think anyone has ever stepped into the league and dominated except Candace Parker.”

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Jackson added that the Caitlin Clark affect has driven new audiences and with that comes increased pressure and expectation.

“A whole new crop of fans have come to women’s basketball because of Caitlin Clark and what she was able to do in college and it’s brought a lot more eyeballs to the WNBA which is incredible,” she said.

“It’s a massive jump, it’s huge and the physicality once you get to the WNBA is beyond anything you can imagine and you’re talking about kids in NCCA making that big step and it is huge.

“It’s a huge jump going from playing against girls the same age to professional athletes. Even the WNBL, if you were to take athletes from there and put them in the WNBA they are going to see a massive jump because of the physicality and size of the athletes and that’s why they’re the best in the world.”

Jackson arrived in Seattle as a wiry19-year-old in 2001, and although she’d represented her country in a home Olympics the year before, she wasn’t prepared for how her 196cm frame would be smashed and pummelled by older more seasoned opponents inside the paint.

She fought fire with fire and totalled six technical fouls in her first 17 games.

“I think I held the record for the most in a season,” Jackson laughed.

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark scores her first WNBA regular season basket against during a game against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut on Tuesday, May 14.

 

“It was brutal the first year and I went in with a real chip on my shoulder. Me being me, I was really afraid and instead of acting afraid I puffed my chest up, had my guard up and they saw an angry Lauren because that’s all I would show them.

“I remember the first day of training camp, Lin Dunn was our coach and we had these two main courts we trained on and she had this drill where there was no out of bounds, there were no foul calls, you just had to score, it was brutal.

“I was 19 years old and there were athletes fighting for positions, for their livelihoods and I’d never fully understood it until I did this drill.

“It was such an eye opener and from that moment I knew how it was going to be, this is what it means and I’m going to have to be this player as well.

“I became overtly physical because you had to, as a No.1 pick you’re going to be targeted and that’s part of it, part of being a rookie.”

Jackson credits the WNBA for the incredible athlete she became who dominated and won all over the world and says it will be the making of another once-in-a-generation talent.

“The physicality was extreme but it was awesome and the WNBA made me who I was as a player and to be the best you had to be the best in that league. That toughness, I got that from the WNBA and going over there so young,” she said.

“My mentality was ‘if I’m going to get hit then someone else is going to get hit, I’ll give what I get’.

“Some of Caitlin’s passes… I watched some of the (Indiana) game today and her passing is incredible. Her teammates weren’t ready for them, that’s not her fault.

“She’s just got such great vision and a knack for the ball and this initiation is going to make her even better.”

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