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It's draft day for the WNBA and all eyes are on Iowa's Caitlin Clark


It is draft day for the WNBA. All eyes are on Caitlin Clark, but the University of Iowa senior is just one of the college basketball stars set to go pro following a record-setting season. So will all these new and not-so-new fans of the game follow these stars to the league? Let's ask Jesse Washington with ESPN's Andscape. Good morning, Jesse. Welcome back.


MARTIN: So let's start with a couple of the big names we've come to know. Caitlin Clark, of course, set all kinds of records this year and by all accounts, brought a lot of eyeballs to the women's college game. Where is she likely to go?

WASHINGTON: Numero uno - Indiana fever, and she's probably going to be really successful there, following in the footsteps of a lot of other transcendent guards like Sabrina Ionescu and Kelsey Plum. She's going to kill it.

MARTIN: And let's talk about LSU's Angel Reese - Bayou Barbie.

WASHINGTON: Yeah. Angel Reese is a really interesting case. Dominant rebounder in college, not projected to go super high in the draft - ESPN has her at No. 8 because there's questions about whether her offensive game - can she shoot it from a distance? What are her post moves like? That's what the questions are about her. I believe that she's going to be an impact player in the WNBA because her motor is special. Her last college game, she got 20 rebounds. Everybody can't do that.

MARTIN: Absolutely - and playing both sides of the floor. OK. What about South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, who made such an impact in the Gamecocks tourney win?

WASHINGTON: Man, well, she's one of my favorite players. Six-foot-seven center, dominant post moves - really sort of unstoppable when she gets the ball on the block. She's projected to go No. 3 to the Chicago sky. And just a really special player coming off an undefeated senior year and a national championship with my favorite coach, Dawn Staley...

MARTIN: All right.

WASHINGTON: ...Of South Carolina. So, you know, just - she's one of these many stars. The other big woman in the draft is Cameron Brink. Six-four senior out of Stanford - ESPN has her going at No. 2 to the Los Angeles Sparks. You know this class that's coming out is really a special group of players. So many big - not only big talents, but just big personalities, big followings that really portends great things for the W.

MARTIN: That's what I was wanting to ask you about, is that women's college ball had so much support and so much attention this past season. Do you think that will translate to the popularity of the WNBA?

WASHINGTON: I do. I think it will. You know, there's nothing like March Madness and the NCAA tournament and the drama of one-and-done. So that adds to the storylines and the attention. So I don't think that it will quite be to that level, because, really, March Madness is an institution in this country. However, in this age of social media - I think Caitlin Clark probably added a million social media followers during the tournament. Angel Reese is one of the most popular college athletes in the country, in any sport, any gender. And you've got Kamilla Cardoso with South Carolina's fans. You got Stanford people. Cameron Brink is in New Balance commercials - Rickea Jackson from Tennessee.


WASHINGTON: It just goes on and on. So these girls here, these women, are really bringing us along to the W, bringing new fans along. And I think it's going to be great.

MARTIN: Briefly if you can, how big of a jump is it to go from college to the WNBA? And I have to mention that they go right into it because their seasons just ended...

WASHINGTON: That's right. The season starts May 14.

MARTIN: ...And the WNBA starts - right. So they don't even get a break. How big of a jump is it to go, as briefly as you can?

WASHINGTON: It's a huge jump. The season starts on May 14. That's only a month. So they're going to have to really get it together, lock in and try to hold on through this WNBA season.

MARTIN: That is Jesse Washington with ESPN's Andscape. Jesse, thank you.

WASHINGTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: April 20, 2024 at 12:00 AM EDT
A web introduction of this report misstated the last name of Jesse Washington as Williams.

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