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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Transformative WNBA Draft Class of 2024

Ally Lovisolo

The 2024 Women’s Basketball National Championship games drew in 18.6 million viewers on average this year. For the first time in history, the Men’s National Championship game had fewer viewers than the women’s, not just a couple hundred fewer but four million.  

Caitlin Clark is the main player the media credits for this sudden burst of popularity. This past season, she surpassed Pete Maravich’s 54 year-old NCAA scoring record for most all-time points, finishing her college career with 3,951 points. Clark won AP Player of the Year as well as Naismith Player of the Year two times in a row. The list goes on with more of her accomplishments, that have her in the conversation for the best college basketball player of all time. 

Two other influential college players throughout their careers are Kamillia Cardoso and Angel Reese. Both were drafted to the Chicago Sky, Cardoso was the third overall pick, and Reese the seventh. In her senior season Cardoso, a two-time national champion, also won SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Reese led her team at LSU to its first national championship in program history in 2023. That same year she won the Best Breakout Athlete ESPY Award and in her senior year, she won SEC Player of the Year.  

Fans have been drawn to Cardoso and Reese’s rivalry all season, as they are both ultimate competitors. They faced up in the SEC championship game, where Cardoso and South Carolina defeated LSU 79-72. This was just another win in South Carolina’s historic season this year. Cardoso led her team to a 38-0 season, becoming the tenth team in Division 1 history to have an undefeated season.  

Though these girls have stepped into stardom the past two seasons, they are not new to playing on big stages and winning games. Cameron Brink, the number two pick in the 2024 WNBA draft, has an incredible record with the USA basketball program. Brink has won a gold medal in the 2023 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, and 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup. 

Alexa Therien ‘25, on the Loyola Women’s Basketball Team, highlights how important the founders of women’s basketball have been in her life. 

“Dawn Staley has been one of the most impactful women the game has ever seen. She was an incredible player and now carries all that knowledge she gained to inspire and coach the younger generations. Coach Staley continues to make her mark on women’s basketball year after year,” Therien said. 

Caitlin Clark has become a household name, turning casual viewers into women’s basketball fans; however, that does not diminish all the incredible women who have come before her and been trailblazers in the sports landscape. These college players wouldn’t have the platform they do if it wasn’t for Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoops, Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson, Dawn Staley, and so many more.  

Kelly Ratigan ‘26 on the Loyola Women’s basketball team spoke highly about a player she has looked up to her whole life. 

“None of us would be here without the players that came before. My biggest role model has been Skylar Diggins Smith. Growing up in South Bend, I was able to watch every single one of her home games at Notre Dame. She’s the reason I wanted to play,” Ratigan said. 

This new generation of talent has changed not just women’s basketball, but the sport itself, making history with viewership standards and becoming role models to kids around the world.   

Hope Lewandowski, Director of Basketball Operations at Loyola, had the pleasure of being a team host for the Iowa women’s basketball team this March Madness. Lewandowski planned all the team’s logistics and spent a lot of face time with the Iowa players and coaches. In doing this, she experienced first-hand the impact all the players, especially Caitlin Clark, had on young fans.  

“The impact that Caitlin has on youth basketball is indescribable. Every time she stepped on the court or entered a room, you could hear the cheers erupt and the smiles of all the young girls watching. We had young fans wait for hours outside of our hotel, waiting for a glimpse of Caitlin,” Lewandowski said.  

Caitlin and the class of 2024 have passed this tradition of excellence in the college landscape to underclassmen like Flau’jae  Johnson (LSU), Juju Wakins (USC), Hannah Hidalgo (Notre Dame), MiLaysia Fulwiley (South Carolina), and so many more. As these college superstars move on, they will carry all this momentum to drive viewership up in the WNBA. 

This statement already reigns true as these former college stars have made an impact without playing a professional game yet. On draft night Caitlin Clark became the top-selling jersey ever for a draft pick. Along with that, three WNBA teams have sold out of their season tickets. The first team that announced this was the reigning champions The Las Vegas Aces when they became the first team in the league’s history to sell out of season tickets. Following them, the Atlanta Dream and Dallas Wings became the second and third teams to announce the same news.  

“It was an incredible experience being able to see how much women’s basketball has grown and how it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. The entire city of Cleveland was buzzing all week long, with fans old and young ready to watch some fantastic basketball,” Lewandowski said. 

People call it the Caitlin Clark effect, but whatever you want to credit it to, there is no doubt there is more history to be made. With preseason games already underway, this rookie class has shown why they are the next generation of stars. 

Angel Reese kicked off her professional career nearing a double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Caitlin Clark proved to everyone that regardless of the level she’s still the player fans have quickly grown to love. Clark had 21 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. 

Continue to watch these girls change the landscape of women’s basketball, starting May 14 with the first official games of the WNBA season.

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