April 8, 2024 

Caitlin Clark is leaving. What does that mean for Iowa’s future?

Clark is off to the WNBA, but her legacy can help the Hawkeyes for years

Yes, Caitlin Clark may be off to the WNBA — and let’s be honest, she’s going to Indianapolis. But back at Iowa, her now former team’s future is still looking bright, even with Clark departing.

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With a returning core that includes current sophomore Hannah Stuelke and juniors Sydney Affolter and Addison O’Grady, the Hawkeyes will hope to retain their experienced talent. They’ll also bring in a strong freshman class, consisting of five highly-touted rookies. 

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Four of the five freshmen are ranked on ESPN’s Top 100 list. Ava Heiden, a 6’4 post player, is the highest-ranked of the pack at No. 40. Head coach Lisa Bluder has previously described her as versatile and explosive with a perimeter skill set. 

They’ll also add Aaliyah Guyton, the daughter of Indiana Hoosiers legend AJ Guyton. She’s a top-60 guard who may have played a big role next season, but sustained a torn ACL midway through this season and will continue her recovery process with the Hawkeyes. 

Yes, Iowa will lose the majority of their starters in Clark, Gabbie Marshall, Molly Davis and Kate Martin – but Clark’s legacy will only aid in future recruiting efforts. In short, the Hawkeyes have some glaring question marks in the near future, but looking further down the road, Iowa should be able to land considerable star power in Iowa City. 

“I’m hoping with our success, I think success breeds success,” Bluder said. “Definitely I feel recruiting going forward. We’ve opened up our geographic footprint. And I think that’s going to bode well for Iowa in the future.”

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Sydney Affolter (3) celebrates after Iowa beat UConn in the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland on April 5, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)
Sydney Affolter (3) celebrates after Iowa beat UConn in the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland on April 5, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

The Hawkeyes will almost certainly be forced to play a different style of basketball due to the Clark-shaped hole that will be evident next season. There will likely be a lot more faces involved in the primary scoring efforts – because Clark won’t be there to drop 40 points and make logo-3’s when the Hawkeyes need it most. 

Affolter will become a bigger piece in Iowa’s offense – and she’s certainly proven that she can take on a larger role during the Hawkeyes tournament run. She’s a capable scorer with a high compete level – and she’s played in big moments. Her veteran experience should help guide the Hawkeyes in the 2024-25 season.

She’ll be one of few veteran leaders on this team, but the Hawkeyes will hope to see instant impact from at least one of the rookies. 

“We’re going to be young,” Bluder said. “We’re going to have some growing pains next year. But I hope that people respect the way that we play, the way that we do things, and they’re going to want to support this young group of Hawkeyes next year, just as much as they have after the success we’ve had the last couple of years. So I just hope it maintains.”

Looking further ahead, Clark’s presence and back-to-back national runner-up titles have seemingly helped the Hawkeyes land a few big-name recruits for the 2025 class. Iowa recently landed 5-star prospect Addison Deal. She’s not a Clark-level star, but she’s the biggest get for the Hawkeyes since Clark’s arrival. They’ll also add a 4-star recruit in Journey Houston – and it’s still early. 

The Big Ten will add four new members next season from the Pac-12, which may lead to a bigger drop-off for Iowa in the near future. USC and UCLA have each found recent success and will bring in high-level talent to the newly-expanded conference. 

It may take a few years for the Hawkeyes to reclaim their spot at the top of the Big Ten, but the recruiting efforts thus far are promising.

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Written by Talia Goodman

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