Rising Stars: A Look Into the WNBA Draft and the Future of Women’s Basketball

Caitlin Clark posing for a picture with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being chosen first overall to the Indiana Fever.
Caitlin Clark posing for a picture with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being chosen first overall to the Indiana Fever.
Brad Penner

For the first time in WNBA history, the draft is making headlines across the nation. The 2024 draftees have broken records, garnished media attention and changed the way people think about women’s basketball.

The 2024 Women’s NCAA championship reached 24.7 million viewers. This is an 89% increase from the 2023 championship game and the most-watched women’s college basketball game since 1992.

The 2024 women’s college basketball draft class—containing Caitlin Clark, Kate Martin, Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso and Cameron Brink—has transformed the sport.

As their college careers came to an end and players chose to take their careers to the professional level, their influence will not be overlooked.

The WNBA Draft took place on April 15, 2024, in Brooklyn, New York. While almost 100 players declared for the draft, only 36 players are actually drafted and even fewer will get a spot on the team roster.

The number one draftee of the WNBA class is none other than Iowa guard Caitlyn Clark. Clark led the women’s NCAA and averaged 31.6 pts a game, 7.4 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Clark has stamped her name in college women’s basketball history and her dominant play has WNBA stars eager to introduce her to the league.

There is one big question for Clark going to the professional level; will her dominance, will her game, translate? Becoming a professional brings an entirely new level of competition. Will Caitlyn Clark’s impact be as electric when she enters the league?

WNBA star Diana Taurasi was asked about Caitlyn Clark in an appearance on Sports Center and how she thinks her game will transfer. Turasi is a three-time NCAA champion and has a successful professional career with three WNBA championships and two final MVPs.

“Reality is coming, there’s levels to this thing,” Taurasi said. “You look superhuman playing against some 18-year-olds but you’re going to come [play] with some grown women that have been playing professional basketball for a long time…there is gonna be a transition period, where you’re gonna have to give yourself some grace as a rookie.”

Stanford star Cameron Brink went second in the draft to the Los Angeles Sparks. Brink averaged 17.4 ppg and 11.9 rebounds this season. The dominant Stanford forward led the women’s NCAA averaging 3.7 blocks per game. The Los Angeles Sparks, a longstanding championship team, have gone through a drought and have not been in the playoffs since 2020. Brink’s rim-blocking abilities and authoritative nature in the paint will significantly impact the Spark’s defensive rating.

Stanford lost to North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 due to Brink’s issue with getting into foul trouble. Throughout the regular season, Brink was benched multiple times during critical moments because of foul trouble.

“It’s been my biggest challenge,” Brink said to ESPN reporter Michael Voepel. “Some games they [referees] let a lot go. Other games, from tipoff, it’s very tight…It’s a fine balance and I’m still learning to deal with it.”

Next in the draft was NCAA champion Kamilla Cardoso. The six-foot-seven-inch Brazilian center was drafted third to the Chicago Sky. Cardoso won the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors after piloting South Carolina to their third NCAA title.

Joining Cardoso in Chicago is LSU superstar Angel Reese. Averaging 18.6 points per game and 13.4 rebounds per game, Reese was the seventh player drafted to the WNBA. Throughout her career, Reese’s boastful play has created controversy. Her different style of play has brought more attention to women’s basketball and will continue to bring attention to the W.

“[Reese is] a great player,” Cardoso said to the Washington Post. “I’m a great player. So two great players together, and nobody’s going to get no rebounds.”

Both Cardoso and Reese have proven that they are dominant players in the post but could grow by improving their field goal attempts and efficiency. Cardoso only attempted one three-pointer during the entire season and Reese’s attempts are similar. Reese and Cardoso are great at what they do, but to play at the professional level requires the ability to score at all three levels—two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws. Will these players be able to expand their scoring abilities beyond the paint?

Drafted in the second round, becoming the 18th overall pick in the draft is Iowa guard Kate Martin. Martin averages 8 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Martin was drafted to the reigning WNBA champions, the Las Vegas Aces.

However, her impact goes far beyond the stat line. Martin is an essential player on that Iowa team and is a great two-way player. Martin can facilitate an offense and can hit the big shot when needed.

“I’m so proud of Kate because her dreams came true,” Iowa Women’s Basketball head coach, Lisa Bleuder, said during a University of Iowa press release. “She has been such a big part of our program over the last six years. Her effort did not go unnoticed…I wish Kate all the success with this next step.”

WNBA training camp began on April 28 and rosters will be solidified on May 13. Each WNBA team has 12 available roster spots and with contract protection for some veteran players, it is competitive to get on a WNBA roster.

“I hate seeing so many players being cut from WNBA teams…The WNBA needs to adjust ASAP,” veteran WNBA player Breanna Stewart said in a tweet. “We need to be developing young talent and taking advantage of the momentum newly drafted players bring from the college game.”

 

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