Caitlin Clark selected by Indiana Fever with first overall pick in WNBA draft | WNBA

Caitlin Clark’s professional basketball career took flight on Monday night when the University of Iowa star was selected by the Indiana Fever with the No 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft.

The all-time scoring leader in major college basketball history, whose fast-paced, crowd-pleasing style has drawn millions of new fans to the sport in recent months, formally entered the paying ranks when her name was called first by WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert before a sold-out audience of about 1,000 spectators at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The selection itself was a formality. The 22-year-old Iowa sensation was hotly tipped for Indiana, which had secured the rights to the top pick by winning the WNBA draft lottery in December, from the moment Clark announced plans to forgo her final season of college eligibility in February.

Her impending arrival with the Fever has driven ticket sales around the circuit – two WNBA teams have already moved their games against Indiana to larger arenas to accommodate demand – and prompted the league to announce last week that all but four of the Fever’s regular-season games will be carried on national television.

The draft continued on Monday evening with Stanford’s Cameron Brink going second to the Los Angeles Sparks and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso third to the Chicago Sky, who had acquired the pick in a trade with the Phoenix Mercury.

The Sparks were due to pick again at No 4 with Dallas fifth, followed by Washington, Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas, Connecticut, New York and Atlanta to close out the first round.

It’s been a whirlwind week for Clark since her Hawkeyes came up short against South Carolina in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament final that drew more US television viewers than the men’s final for the first time in history.

She flew to Los Angeles to accept the John R Wooden Award as the national’s top women’s college basketball player for the second year in a row, then to Iowa City for a celebration of the team at the Hawkeyes’ home arena, then to New York where the draft has generated an unprecedented buzz throughout the run-up.

Since her arrival, Clark made a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live and headlined a group of WNBA draft hopefuls on Monday morning to light the Empire State Building.

The 6ft combo guard, who joins a promising young core in Indianapolis that includes Aliyah Boston (last year’s No 1 overall pick), NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell, will be a welcome addition to a Fever organisation that had the WNBA’s second-lowest attendance last year and which hasn’t reached the playoffs since Tamika Catchings’ final season in 2016.

The WNBA didn’t even wait for Monday’s draft to start capitalizing on Clark’s soaring profile. The league announced last Wednesday that 36 of Indiana’s 40 games will be featured on national television through their broadcast or streaming partners, a dramatic leap for a team that had just one nationally televised contest in 2023. Eight of those games will air on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2, while others will be on ION, NBA TV, Prime Video, and the CBS Sports/Television Network.

Clark was one of 15 players who attended Monday’s draft, a group that included Brink (Stanford), Cardoso (South Carolina), Marquesha Davis (Mississippi), Aaliyah Edwards (Connecticut), Dyaisha Fair (Syracuse), Jackson (Tennessee), Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech), Nika Mühl (Connecticut), Charisma Osborne (UCLA), Alissa Pili (Utah), Nyadiew Puoch (Australia), Angel Reese (LSU), Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State) and Celeste Taylor (Ohio State).

More to follow.

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