Caitlin Clark must enter the WNBA draft to forgo her final year at Iowa

Iowa women's basketball star Kaitlyn Clark announced on social media Thursday that she will end her college career this year and will not return for a fifth season through a Covid-19 exemption.

Clarke, projected as the WNBA's No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever, broke the women's major college scoring record on Wednesday with a 33-point performance at Minnesota. He has scored 3,650 points and is 17 behind LSU's Pete Maravich, who holds the Division I all-time record between men's and women's basketball with 3,667.

“This season is far from over and we still have a lot of goals to achieve and this will be my last one at Iowa,” Clark wrote. “I am excited to enter the 2024 WNBA Draft.

“I can't express my gratitude enough to everyone who supported me during my time at Iowa — my teammates who made the last four years the best; my coaches, trainers and staff, who always let me be who I am; the fans who filled Carver every night of hockey; and the people who came out to support us all over the country.” Everyone who came, especially the young kids.”

Clark, who turned 22 in January, will be able to stay in college through his freshman year due to the Covid exemption for the 2020-2021 season. Instead, she'll head to the pro game with the Fever, where she's expected to join last year's No. 1 pick Aaliyah Boston out of South Carolina. Indiana has not made the WNBA playoffs since 2016.

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Clark, expected to be the National Player of the Year again this season, has 17 triple-doubles behind 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu, who had 26 for the Oregon Ducks from 2016-2020. Clark led Iowa to the Final Four last season for the second time in program history, and the Hawkeyes lost the national championship game to LSU for the first time.

Clark leads Division I in scoring (32.2 PPG) and assists (8.7 APG) and will play his final regular-season home game Sunday against Big Ten-leading Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are seeded in the top 16 of the NCAA tournament, so they could play two extra games at home in the postseason.

“None of this would have been possible without my family and friends standing by my side,” Clarke wrote on social media. “You made my dreams come true.”

The 6-foot guard set the NCAA women's scoring record, previously held by 2017 No. 1 draft pick Kelsey Plum, on Feb. 15 in Iowa City. She surpassed Lynette Woodard's major-college women's mark of 3,649, set by the Kansas star from 1977-81, during the AIAW era, before the NCAA took over administration of women's sports.

Clark said in October that he would wait until the end of the season to decide if he wanted to return to college. Instead, he chose to make the announcement before Senior Day at Iowa on Sunday. According to VividSeat on Wednesday, tickets for the game were already set to be the most expensive ever on the secondary market for a women's game, with prices ranging from $408 to $5,199.

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Clark, a native of West Des Moines, Iowa, chose to stay in his home state for college, and it paid off for him and the Hawkeyes. Attracting 55,646 fans, Iowa hosted a season opener at Kinnick Stadium, the home of football hockey. Every game at Carver-Hockey Arena has been sold out, and many of Iowa's games on the road have been sold out. Clark took advantage of NIL contracts as he became a professional, including with companies like Nike, Gatorade and State Farm.

Clark became the first Division I women's player to record at least 3,000 points and 1,000 assists this season. He is on pace to lead Division I in scoring for the third consecutive season. Of his 17 triple-doubles, six came with 30 points or more, the most in Division I history.

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