April 16, 2024 

No innuendos needed anymore: Indiana Fever officially pick Caitlin Clark in WNBA Draft

After finally picking Clark, Fever prepare to elevate their current era

INDIANAPOLIS — It was 9 p.m., and as the 2024 WNBA Draft was winding down, so was the dancing in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. And not the dancing of celebrating fans, who were all thrilled to see the Indiana Fever select Caitlin Clark with the first overall pick on Monday night.

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Instead, it was the dancing around the subject that all of Indianapolis had to do for weeks when talking about Clark and the Fever. That dance, a simple one, was over.

Since Clark’s Feb. 29 announcement that she was going pro, some of the most common words uttered concerning the Fever all had a similar innuendo: “presumptive”, “widely expected”, “likely”, “potential” or something to that effect. They all were followed by “No. 1 pick”. Everybody knew, but nobody knew, or at least could say it.

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“Welcome to the gang, @CaitlinClark22,” Fever guard Erica Wheeler said on social media. “But we already knew this!” she added. Moments earlier, Wheeler was gleefully roaming the arena with a Fever No. 22 Clark jersey on.

Indiana Fever Erica Wheeler Caitlin Clark
Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler wearing an Indiana Fever Caitlin Clark uniform just after the Fever chose Clark in the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo Credit: Tony East | The Next)

Everyone knew, but nobody could say it directly — though the Fever’s social media team creatively tried just about every method possible to say it without saying it. Now, fans and Fever staff can finally shout it, and it’s always met with a beaming smile. Caitlin Clark, a transformative talent who just wrapped up the most high-profile season in college basketball history at The University of Iowa, is on Indiana’s roster.

“We’re thrilled to select, with the first pick, Caitlin Clark,” general manager Lin Dunn said after the “choice” was made. In the background, thousands of fans were roaring in excitement as head coach Christie Sides ran on to the court to address them. “She’s going to be an integral part of the Indiana Fever.”

Dunn joked that she’s had to bite her tongue and follow the rules. She wasn’t allowed to talk about any specific players, including the obvious first overall pick in Clark. “We didn’t want to let the cat out of the box or whatever — the mouse out of the trap,” Dunn said through hurried excitement.

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Truly, the story of the April 15 draft for Indiana is really a story about Feb. 29. Leap Day. The Fever won the draft lottery in December, meaning they had the first pick of whoever was in the available player pool. But it wasn’t known who would make up that group, and many NCAA stars could opt to stay in the college ranks rather than join the WNBA. Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso and Paige Bueckers had not made decisions about their future at the time.

On Leap Day, Clark shared on her social media feeds that she was going pro after Iowa’s season. That’s the day the Fever’s pick might as well have been made. The Hawkeyes star was going to be picked first, and Dunn shared that it only took her 20 seconds to submit the selection on Monday. Why that long? She wanted to follow the directions and make the league pause — at least a little.

But everyone knew the selection was truly made 46 days ago. “The night she declared, someone texted me, and I about fell off my couch,” Dunn said moments after making the pick. She immediately texted the news to Sides.

“It was unexpected, it was just out of the blue,” Sides recalled after a big smile. “I think Lin sent me the text and we cheered for a little while. She’s just changed the landscape of women’s basketball.”

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Sides excitement was obvious. She always wears her emotions, and draft night was no different. But there was nothing to hide or bury. She gets to coach Caitlin Clark now, the player who she just said is changing the sport. It’s a big deal, and a big responsibility, for a second-year head coach.

Yet Sides seems ready, and her shirt detailing that the Fever just picked Clark first overall helped drive home that point.

Miles away, in New York City, was Clark. She met with Fever center Aliyah Boston before the draft as Boston was on site. Clark, like the Fever, was about to finish the awkward “who will be drafted first?” dance.

The star guard was much worse at avoiding the subject than the Fever were. She was liking tweets about the franchise all the way back in February, and she even retweeted a post from Indiana’s X account — this one — five days before being selected. Former Iowa men’s basketball player Patrick McCaffrey transferred to Butler University and announced the decision on April 13, two days before the draft. Clark commented on his Instagram post announcing the commitment and said “Indy takeover.”

Clark wasn’t dancing around the subject at all. She approached it with excitement and was ready to go first overall to Indiana. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert made the announcement at about 7:40 p.m. ET. The Fever chose Clark.

“For myself, I can’t imagine a more perfect fit, a better place for me to start my professional career,” Clark said in her first media availability after being selected. “An organization that really just believes in women’s basketball and wants to do everything the right way. So I couldn’t be more excited to get there.”

Indiana Fever fans
Indiana Fever fans await the 2024 WNBA Draft while sitting in Gainbridge Fieldhouse on April 15, 2024. (Photo Credit: Tony East | The Next)

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Clark also gushed about her possible fit with Boston and how her passing will make her a natural fit on Indiana’s roster. Truly, with her shooting range and shot creation abilities, Clark would be a great fit on any roster. That’s why she was so clearly going to go No. 1 — she averaged 31.6 points and 8.9 assists per game this past campaign.

She was often unguardable, and now the Indiana Fever and Caitlin Clark can now stop doing the dance. She’s on the team. There is no “presumptive” attached to her name. It’s now “former” number one overall pick.

She’ll help the roster in many ways. Sides gushed about her IQ, her spacing ability, her decision making coming off of screens, and much more. “She [will] kind of fit right into what we were doing last year,” the head coach said.

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Indiana now builds forward with a goal that is nothing less than a championship at some point with this core. That’s what happens in the WNBA when a team makes two consecutive first overall picks — they win. The Seattle Storm, guided by Lin Dunn, did it after grabbing Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. They did it again when they drafted Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. The reigning champion Las Vegas Aces just accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons with A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum.

Now, with Clark and Boston, many will think it’s the Fever’s turn.

“That’s definitely our goal is to get back to championship habits,” Clark said of the Indiana Fever.

That mentality, and the skill level required to set those expectations, is why the star guard is no longer the presumptive No. 1 pick. She’s a Fever guard.

Written by Tony East

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

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