WNBA Draft: Caitlin Clark selected No. 1 from Indiana Fever while Camila Cardoso and Angel Reyes head to Chicago

WNBA Draft: Caitlin Clark selected No. 1 from Indiana Fever while Camila Cardoso and Angel Reyes head to Chicago


New York
CNN

The excitement in women's basketball is perhaps the highest it's ever been.

And now, several stars from the NCAA women's basketball tournament — including Iowa State's Caitlin Clark, Stanford's Cameron Brink, LSU's Angel Reyes and South Carolina's Camila Cardoso — are taking their talents to the WNBA.

As expected, Clark, who helped draw record television audiences and sales in arenas across the country in her final college season, was selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft on Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. .

“I was a little nervous before the selection,” Clark said on an ESPN broadcast. She later added: “I've dreamed of this moment since I was in second grade. It's taken a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs, but more than anything else it's just trying to get it together.”

Brink went second overall to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Chicago Sky, who selected third, took Cardoso, while Tennessee's Rickea Jackson went fourth for the Sparks. Rounding out the top five, the Dallas Wings selected Ohio State's Jesse Sheldon.

Cardoso, who is from Brazil, was emotional when she thought about leaving her home country when she was 15 to pursue her dream of playing professional basketball.

Sarah Steer/Getty Images

Camila Cardoso poses with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after she was selected as the third overall pick by the Chicago Sky.

“I had a goal to be here tonight and give my family a better life, so I'm very grateful that I was able to be here,” she tearfully told ESPN.

UConn's Aaliyah Edwards was taken sixth overall against the Washington Mystics. Meanwhile, Rees is relegated to Sky in seventh place, joining fellow rookie Cardoso. Reese was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 Final Four when LSU won the national title, with Cardoso earning the honor this year after South Carolina completed an unbeaten season and won the program's third national championship.

“Going back (to LSU) would have been great for me, but I wanted more for myself,” Reese said. “I wanted to start over. I feel like I've been at my highest since (winning) the national championship, and I want to hit rock bottom.”

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“I want to be a starter again. I want to be dropped by vets, and I want to be able to get up and grow and be a sponge. I'm very excited to play with great players and against great players.”

Sarah Steer/Getty Images

Angel Reese celebrates with LSU coach Kim Mulkey after being selected as the seventh overall pick by the Sky.

Utah's Alyssa Bailey went to the Minnesota Lynx at No. 8. Two players from France completed the top 10: The Wings selected Carla Lett with the ninth pick, and the Connecticut Sun selected Laila Lacan with the 10th pick.

Fans cheered for the selection of the hometown New York Liberty, with Ole Miss' Markisha Davis at No. 11. To complete the first round, the Atlanta Dream selected Australia's Nyadeo Bosh with the 12th pick.

The buzz surrounding Clarke, who will be paired with last year's No. 1 seed, Aliyah Boston, comes with high expectations — and the potential to attract even more national audiences. The WNBA announced Wednesday that 36 of the Fever's 40 games will be shown by the WNBA's national broadcast and streaming partners.

“Caitlin is one of the most naturally gifted basketball players I have ever seen enter the WNBA from the college level,” Fever head coach Christy Sides said. Her shooting and passing abilities captivated an entire audience of basketball fans, and her ability to improve those around her was never more evident during her collegiate career. We can't wait to bring her to Indiana and integrate her into our locker room with a group ready to return to the postseason.

The Fever had one of the worst records in the league last season, but with Boston and Clark side by side, they could be one of the hottest tickets in sports.

“I definitely know the pressure is there. There's never any escape from it,” Clark told CNN on the orange carpet before the draft. But I believe in myself that all my confidence comes from the work I do, and from my teammates. I know this is a team sport. That's why I love basketball. It's not an individual sport, so that's where all my confidence comes from. This is what I always rely on when I get stressed out in moments or when I feel like things are under pressure. It's like this is what I'm just coming back to.

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Clark is not the only reason interest in the sport is growing. far from it.

In the regular season and NCAA Tournament, there were several college stars who shone on the big stage – like Cardoso, Reese and Brink.

Meanwhile, the WNBA has been star-studded since the league's inception. This did not change as the league entered its twenty-eighth season.

But the big difference in recent years at the professional and college levels is how easy they are to watch (and how much media coverage they get).

“I know people keep saying it's a historical course, but I think we need to look back at the draft(s) before us as well because they're the women we grew up watching,” Brink told CNN on the orange carpet. . “So, we're doing it for them. They're trailblazers, and even though this class is amazing and I couldn't be prouder of us, it's the women before us who really did it.”

Tickets for Monday's WNBA Draft sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Before Monday's draft, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league's goal was to expand to 16 teams, and said she was “very confident” that could happen by 2028. The league currently has 12 teams, and the league will expand to 13 teams in 2025 with the formation of a One. Added in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2023, the WNBA had its most-watched regular season in 21 years, and the season-ending WNBA Finals were its most-watched Finals in 20 years. WNBA attendance is up 16% for the 2023 season compared to 2022.

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Adam Hunger/AFP

From left, Reese, Caitlin Clark and Stanford's Cameron Brink pose for a photo before the start of the WNBA Draft.

“I love where the game is going now and I just want to be a part of the growth,” Reese told CNN on the orange carpet. “Whatever happens, I just want to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, the women's NCAA tournament title game between South Carolina and Iowa is getting closer 19 million viewers on averagebroke records to become the most watched college basketball game of all time by Nielsen.

Not only did the game beat the men's final between Purdue and UConn by more than four million viewers, it was also the most-watched basketball game of the past five years, surpassing any NBA contest during that period, according to Nielsen.

After a heartbreaking loss in last year's national championship game, Clark's last dance with the Hawkeyes almost ended in a fairy tale.

Although Iowa ultimately fell at the final hurdle again — this time to undefeated South Carolina — Clark's 2023-2024 campaign highlighted her impact on Women's basketball through its popularity and skills.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images/File

Clark enjoyed a historic 2023-24 season with the Iowa Hockey League.

She became the all-time leading scorer for both men's and women's Division I college basketball last season and was named Naismith Player of the Year For the second straight season, he was named to the 14-player women's national basketball team training camp roster, potentially paving the way for an Olympic appearance in Paris 2024. However, Clarke was unable to participate because it was held in the same week as the Final Four.

Now, with Clark in the WNBA, that excitement has been pushed forward toward what she could achieve in the pros.

Will Clarke's performance at the professional level translate into increased interest? The signs point in this direction. But other players achieve it too.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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