OT: If you are still not watching the WNBA, you just don’t like hoops

Caitlin Clark finished her collegiate career with 3,951 total points — the most of any collegiate basketball player of all time. Photo courtesy of Sportico.com

DAVID JACOBS | STAFF REPORTER | drjacobs@butler.edu 

For the majority of its 27-year history, the WNBA has often been looked down upon. Despite having a tremendous group of athletes playing in the association during its time, the hate has not been without reason. 

It was not until the 2010 season that the league scoring average broke 80 points per game, and it took until 2017 for that trend to stick for consecutive seasons. Simply put, women’s basketball has always been a different version of the sport, compared to how their male counterparts have played. 

In the NBA, fans get a fast-paced, iso-oriented game of basketball. Teams rely on the fast break and three-pointers that turn into the high-scoring games we see now. On the other hand, the WNBA has always seen a slower pace of play, dominated by half-court sets and post-play due to differing coaching philosophies. 

The slow-paced half-court game will soon be changing to a more full-court scheme with the incoming draftees. The WNBA now has its most-hyped star in league history with guard Caitlin Clark joining the Indiana Fever as the first overall pick in the draft on April 15, 2024. 

Clark plays with a quick trigger, has never seen a shot she does not like and is a walking triple-double. Being able to play-make and attack the boards — even if her shot is not falling — will continue to be her best asset as she approaches the league. 

She is not the only young hooper who plays this way. Connecticut senior guard Paige Bueckers, USC first-year guard Juju Watkins, fellow 2024 draftee Rickea Jackson and current New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu all fall under this mold of the new-age hooper. 

Jackson is more of an interior presence than Clark — and is not much of an outside threat — but that did not stop her from averaging 20 points and eight rebounds her senior year

Ionescu is coming off consecutive All-WNBA second-team selections and a finals runner-up finish last season, averaging 17 points, five rebounds and five assists during her most recent campaign. 

There is a reason that women’s basketball is taking off. This current generation of collegiate women’s basketball players is the first generation that grew up knowing that there was a professional league for them to play in someday. 

Diana Taurasi, one of the most accomplished players in league history and career-long Phoenix Mercury guard, did not see the WNBA come to fruition until she was 14 years old. For the new generation of hoopers, all they know is a world with the WNBA. 

With more young girls being able to look up to stars like Clark and Ionescu as role models, more future WNBA superstars will be able to grow up in a world where people support women’s athletics. 

First-year mechanical engineering major Emily Vaughn points to the atmosphere that players like Clark bring to the game for its recent ascension. 

“It is more positive for girls to chase their dreams now,” Vaughn said. “[When] I was like five years old and told someone I wanted to be in the WNBA they were like, ‘No you do not.’ Now, people are like, ‘Yeah, go for it.’” 

In tandem with Clark and Jackson, star forwards Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Aaliyah Edwards and Angel Reese round out the rest of the top draftees. 

Each bringing a different set of skills to their respective teams, this WNBA class has the potential to be one of the best the league has ever seen. 

In addition to these talented stars entering the league, with three international players in Carla Leite, Leila Lacan and Nyadiew Puoch being drafted in the first round, the WNBA global outreach is starting to pay dividends. 

The ability to have successful international talent in American leagues brings new eyes and different play styles into the league. 

As for the top three draft picks, all leave behind incredible collegiate careers as they hope to bring their hype to the league. 

Clark broke the all-time scoring record in NCAA history, Brink —- going to the Sparks —- was a three-time AP All-American and averaged three blocks a game during her four-year career, and Cardoso —- going to the Sky —- was a two-time champion and averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds en route to a tournament MOP bid this past season. 

While Clark gets the majority of the attention, fans like sophomore data science major Jeff Herschberger believe that the class as a whole will continue to shine in the WNBA. 

“[The class] will be massive for the league,” Herschberger said. “These players have gained themselves followings through what they did in college, so I think there will be a natural progression to a growth in popularity of the WNBA as these players turn into stars.” 

With such an elite pool of talent already in the league, these incoming rookies will help bring more eyes to some of the best basketball players in the world. 

The reigning league MVP, Liberty forward Breanna Stewart, has averaged 20 points and nine rebounds throughout her career, a mark that just eight NBA players have reached this season. 

Fellow two-time MVP — as well as two-time defensive player of the year — Aces guard A’ja Wilson is coming off a 22-point and 9.5 rebounds per game season. 

Despite being in the latter years of her career, the only other active two-time MVP is Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne who has averaged nearly 20 points and seven rebounds a game for her career. 

These three superstars are just a handful of the league’s top talents who will be able to shine with more eyes watching them than ever before. 

As for first-year PP1 pre-pharmacy major Allie Smith, like many fans, she is just glad these set superstars in the league will finally get the attention they deserve. 

“[With Clark] joining the league, it will bring more fans to the game,” Smith said. “Although the fans may initially come for Clark, they will then see all the other talented players in the league.” 

Regardless of any predetermined notions people may have about women’s basketball, the numbers do not lie. The 2024 NCAA championship was the first time ever that the women’s title game had a higher viewership than its male counterpart — winning the viewership battle 18.9 million to 14.9 million. 

The WNBA saw its highest average viewership in its lifespan last season reaching 505,000 viewers per game. Add on the waves of fans that will be following their favorite collegiate stars, it is certain that the number will only continue to grow. 

With all the talent that will be on display and a clear shift towards a faster-paced game, if you are still not watching the WNBA you are either anti-women or you just do not like basketball. 


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