April 17, 2024 

What you didn’t see at the Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark introductory press conference

Clark was officially introduced to Indianapolis on Wednesday as a member of the Indiana Fever in a presser fit for a star

INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark exited a vehicle on Delaware Street just outside of Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Wednesday morning. She was about to enter the arena for the first time since being selected by the Indiana Fever with the No. 1 overall pick on Monday. The Fever had a press conference scheduled to start at the top of the hour, at which Clark would be introduced to local media and fans.

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The rookie guard, who is the face of the rising popularity of an entire sport right now, entered the building through a door that leads right into the Fever’s practice court. Just behind her to the left was head coach Christie Sides, who was — unsurprisingly — fist pumping. Some tens of feet in front of her was Freddy Fever, the team’s bright red mascot and the only thing in the building with more energy than Sides.

Surrounding Clark were dozens of excited Indianapolis residents ready to greet her. The 22-year old walked through the crowd on a lengthy red carpet, stopping for a few high fives. She waved often before being escorted deeper into the arena ahead of her introduction that would take place in the Fieldhouse’s entry pavilion.

“Super excited to be here. I’ve never had to give an opening statement before,” Clark began just after 10 a.m. Eastern Time. She was sandwiched between Sides and general manager Lin Dunn on a podium. “These are the moments you dream of.”

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Clark’s entire press conference was broadcast to the public, and as of this writing it has over 46 thousand views on the Fever’s YouTube feed. The rookie guard weaved through questions — about why she opted to go pro and join the Fever, her place in women’s basketball, and how she can boost her new team — like it was nothing. Her poise was impressive, particularly after a week-plus of endless events and appearances.

Clark commanded the room as she made her first comments as an official member of the Indiana Fever franchise. The scene surrounding Clark was also important and set the stage for what is coming for the Fever franchise.

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A sign just outside the entrance of Gainbridge Fieldhouse welcomes Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever before her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024. (Photo Credit: Tony East | The Next)

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett wasn’t scheduled to speak but was in attendance. He wanted to be a part of Clark’s first day. Several Fever players were also present. Erica Wheeler, fittingly, was the first to arrive. She has been a champion for Clark online ever since the young ball handler announced she was going pro back in February, and they were finally face to face.

“I think also Erica Wheeler. A vet, somebody that has been in the league a long time, somebody that is in the organization, has been in the league, understands what it’s about, somebody that I can lean on. I’m 22 years old, and I don’t have all the answers in the world,” Clark said on draft night when asked who she is looking forward to playing with. “This is something new to me. This is a new challenge. That’s something I’m excited for. But having those type of people around me to lean on and ask questions, or when things get hard to be there for me.”

Wheeler was engaged in the press conference more than anyone in the room. She had a reaction to every question — and it was obvious if the veteran guard thought an inquiry was a good or bad one. When Clark mentioned Wheeler early in the presser, the former All-Star guard pumped her fist in a second row seat. She also nodded along later, when Clark emphasized that Wheeler wants the best for everyone.

Joining Wheeler from the Fever’s roster at the press conference were Grace Berger and Maya Caldwell, two former Fever draft picks themselves. Caldwell was in the building two days earlier for the team’s WNBA Draft event, where she donned a Clark No. 22 uniform in front of thousands of fans.

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Multiple Fever staffers, including a front office assistant and a handful of coaches, sat in the rows of onlookers. Further back stood former WNBA player and coach Jenny Boucek as well as former Fever general manager Kelly Krauskopf. They are both staffers with the Indiana Pacers, but took a moment out of their playoff preparation to see this moment.

And speaking of former WNBA greats, Fever legend Tamika Catchings was in attendance. She was in the front row, and her gaze rested, obviously, on Clark for a half hour. “Obviously Tamika Catchings is here, that’s pretty incredible. Somebody I grew up idolizing,” Clark said early in the press conference through a smile. She gestured toward Catchings with her left hand while Dunn cheered “Yes, yes!”

A few seats to the left of Catchings were Clark’s parents. Her dad was laser-focused on the conference, watching his daughter’s dreams come true. Clark’s mom was equally engaged, but was able to mix in more laughter. It was clear from their gazes just how proud they were, and they were able to meet several Fever employees just after the conference.

The details in the room tied the scene together. It was a beautiful day outside — sunny, about 68 degrees, and a slight breeze that picked up later in the day. The sunlight peeked through the glass windows on the North end of the room, but it was too early in the day for it to cause a distracting glare.

Just inside the door were giant balloons in the shape on a “#1”. They were still left over from the draft party on Monday, and the red, blue, and yellow inflatables brought some color to the area.

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Some balloons in the shape of #1 at Caitlin Clark’s introductory press conference with the Indiana Fever. (Photo Credit: Tony East | The Next)

Nearby sat dozens of platters of donuts. Almost all of them were decorated with frosting and sprinkles in classic Fever colors. Jack’s Donuts, an official partner of the Pacers, supplied the pastries, and they used a food printer to produce a mockup of Clark’s jersey and a Fever logo into the frosting.

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Some donuts to snack on during Catilin Clark’s introductory press conference with the Indiana Fever. (Photo Credit: The Next)

Every sign in the entry pavilion had a picture of Clark on it to welcome her to town. Some banners hung outside the arena, too, including a particularly huge one on the bridge that connects the arena to a nearby parking garage. The details were impressive.

Between the particulars and the attendees, it was a grand event. Clark felt that right away as she walked down a red carpet draped over the court that she will practice on for thousands of hours in the next few years.

The star rookie answered questions for over 30 minutes. Sides and Dunn each fielded one inquiry — all the rest were for Clark. She answered each one with care and thought. It was impressive in any context, even more so after considering her hectic week.

After the half hour concluded and the questions came to an end, Clark grabbed the water bottle in front of her and finally took a drink. Her introduction to Indianapolis was done. It was now time for a much-needed refreshing moment before some photos.

After posing with her jersey, and then with Dunn and Sides, Clark exited the stage and returned to the practice court area where she entered. She had more obligations to finish up before heading elsewhere for other appearances.

In the coming weeks, she will wrap school at Iowa and conclude other projects. Then, she can get back to doing what she loves most: playing basketball games. “Hopefully, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Sides said during the presser. “[Clark’s] going to help us out with that.” If her introductory press conference is any indication, Clark’s every performance will be quite the spectacle in the WNBA.

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Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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