Caitlin Clark’s Transformation Has Us Doing A Double-Take

Caitlin Clark's Transformation Has Us Doing A Double-Take

Balling with the boys

Caitlin Clark has become one of the biggest names in basketball, but it didn’t just happen overnight. Here’s how a young soccer player from Des Moines exploded into the breakout star of the NCAA.

Born in 2002, Caitlin Clark grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. When she first picked up basketball at the age of 5, there were no girls’ teams she could join at her advanced level. Her parents instead enrolled her in boys’ teams until she was in the 6th grade. This move ultimately helped shape her on-court mannerisms, as her father, Brent, told Fox.

“The competitiveness, the assertiveness, she’s very creative, had to be at a young age.”

Clark told ESPN that her confidence on the court was also nurtured at home by her two brothers, Blake and Colin Clark. Caitlin has also kept in touch with her old teammates, some of whom have admitted to her that she was still the better player.

Having this competitive energy around her was in no way disheartening. As she said:

“I was always around, you know, boys that pushed me and wanted to play sports, and, yeah, I think it was super special in my development. It was never something that ever fazed me. It was just like, you know, I’m a girl, I can hold my own.”

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From field to court

Clark became prominent in the basketball scene while playing on Iowa’s Dowling Catholic High School team, but she was talented in multiple sports before she settled on pursuing hoop dreams.

“Well honestly, growing up, like, I loved soccer too and I played every sport basically like I ran track, I did softball, you know, soccer.”

In fact, she was so good at soccer that she was named to the 2017 All-Iowa girls’ soccer team.

So, what was it about basketball that stood out over other sports? She told “Good Morning America” that basketball offered a competitive environment that she thrived in, adding that it was also the easier sport to choose because of working with her father, who was a basketball player himself at Simpson College in the ’80s.

Representing the USA

In 2017, 15-year-old Caitlin Clark beat out over 100 athletes to make it to the USA Women’s Under 16 basketball team.

That year, the team played a 91-46 game against Canada to secure the FIBA Under-16 Women’s Americas Championship title.

The following year, Clark didn’t make it on the Under-16 team, but went on to play on the Under-19 team in 2019 and 2021. During both appearances, she helped the team secure gold medals at the Women’s Basketball World Cup.

In a November 2019 tweet, Caitlin Clark announced that she would be committing to the University of Iowa.

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All eyes on the Hawkeyes

She said that choosing the Hawkeyes over Notre Dame was a tough decision, but ultimately, it was the right one.

As the years passed, she could see a change in the size of the crowd that showed up for games. The numbers gradually increased, and by the time her senior season came around, their games’ tickets were often sold out. Throughout her run as a Hawkeye, Clark earned several accolades, including being named the National Player of the Year back-to-back and MVP of the Big Ten tournament three years in a row.

Off-court friendship

It wasn’t long before Clark struck up a friendship with her Hawkeye teammate, starting center Monika Czinano. Czinano joined the University of Iowa basketball team in 2018, and when Clark came along, the 2 quickly became an unstoppable force on the court.

Both players have spoken highly of each other. Czinano — who was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2023 WNBA draft and released that same year – gushed about Clark as a person and teammate during a press conference after losing in the 2023 National Championship game.

During the emotional post-game brief, Czinano kept soothing a crying Clark.

Top NCAA scorer of all time

In February 2024, Caitlin Clark officially cemented herself in college basketball history by accumulating 3,650 career points to surpass Lynette Woodard’s record and become the NCAA’s all-time leading female scorer.

It was only a matter of time before she was back in the spotlight for breaking Pete Maravich’s top-scoring NCAA career record of 3,667 points to be named the overall top scorer, male or female. Clark achieved the feat during a game against Ohio State that saw her rack up an astounding 35 points.

While the full realization of the achievement didn’t sink in immediately, when she spoke about it to the press after the game, she admitted that it was a surreal experience.

A new three-point record

Caitlin Clark’s signature deep three-pointer has often sent her fans into a frenzy and beat the buzzer a couple of times. It’s a technique the point guard developed to curb the aggression of her opponents, as she explained on “Sue’s Places.”

In March 2024, Clark smashed the NCAA Division 1 record for the most three-pointers made in a single season, 163, which was previously held by Davidson’s Steph Curry and Liberty’s Darius McGhee.

If you’re wondering what Curry thought of Clark’s milestone being pitted against his own, Curry himself sang her praises in an interview with “CBS Mornings,” saying:

“I think it almost robs her of, like, the rest of her game because […] she’s racking up, you know, close to triple-doubles every night, and her shooting ability is her superpower but the rest of her game is as polished as that.”

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Iowa retired her jersey

In a February 2024 post on Instagram, Caitlin Clark announced that she was leaving the University of Iowa after the season ended to take a shot at the WNBA. She wrote:

“It is impossible to fully express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me during my time at Iowa.”

She went on to thank the members of the team, workers at the institution, the coaching squad, fans, and her family, ending her statement with:

“Because of all of you, my dreams came true.”

Days after the Hawkeyes lost in the national championship game to South Carolina, the Iowa Hawkeyes tweeted that her jersey would be officially retired. As of April 2024, there will never be another No. 22 at the school.

In her final goodbye to the team, Clark was asked about her thoughts on her jersey’s retirement, which she called “incredible” before calling out others who’ve worn the number before her.

Dunking on SNL

Ahead of the 2024 WNBA draft, Caitlin Clark made a surprise guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” Clark roasted Michael Che, who has in the past made some unflattering comments about the WNBA during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment. During the “SNL” appearance, Clark said she came up with some jokes of her own for Che to read aloud, including one about the then-upcoming WNBA draft, which had the Indiana Fever getting first pick.

In a chat with “Today,” she shared that preparing for “SNL” was more nerve-wracking than training for a championship title, even though she had ticked one box off her checklist.

Dreams coming true

When Caitlin Clark was in the second grade, she had a list of goals written down, as she told “Today.” At the top of that list, she wanted a basketball scholarship and the chance to join the WNBA. Her quest for playing women’s basketball at the highest level was fulfilled when she became the Indiana Fever’s No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA draft.

Although it seemed like a pretty obvious choice, Clark was tense in the minutes leading up to the announcement, but happy to be with her loved ones.

This new chapter not only casts a light on Clark’s skills but also provides an opportunity for her to scale her paychecks. Although her WNBA contract paled in comparison to the NBA, Clark has already started work on sponsorship deals. She’s made appearances in commercials by State Farm, and got a nod from Nike. She also works with charitable pursuits like The Caitlin Clark Foundation, which aims to promote sports, education, and nutrition amongst young people.

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