WNBA Draft: Kaitlyn Clark was selected No. 1 by the Indiana Fever in a class that included Cameron Brink, Camila Cardoso, Angel Reese.

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The excitement for women's basketball may be as high as it's ever been.

Now, several NCAA women's basketball stars — including Iowa's Kaitlyn Clark, Stanford's Cameron Brink, LSU's Angel Reese and South Carolina's Camila Cardozo — are taking their talents to the WNBA.

As expected, Clarke, who helped draw record TV audiences and sellouts in stadiums across the country in her final collegiate season, was selected No. 1 by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft on Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. .

“I was a little excited there before the selection,” Clarke said on the ESPN broadcast. Later, he added: “I've been dreaming of this moment since I was in second grade. It's taken a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs, but most of all, just trying to soak it all in.”

Brink went 2nd overall to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Chicago Sky, with the third pick, took Cardoso, and Tennessee's Rickia Jackson went No. 4 to the Sparks. Rounding out the top five, the Dallas Wings selected Ohio State's Jaycee Shelton.

Cardoso, a native of Brazil, became emotional when thinking about leaving his home country at the age of 15 to pursue his professional basketball dream.

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Camila Cardoso poses with WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert after being selected as the third overall pick by the Chicago Sky.

“I had a goal to be here tonight and to provide a better life for my family, so I'm very grateful that I was able to be here,” he tearfully told ESPN.

UConn's Aaliyah Edwards went sixth overall to the Washington Mystics. Rees, meanwhile, is the Sky no. Landed at 7, joining fellow freshman Cardoso. Reese was a 2023 Final Four Player of the Year when LSU won the national title, and Cardoso earned the honor this year after South Carolina completed an undefeated season and won the program's third national championship.

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“Coming back (to LSU) would have been a surprise to me, but I wanted more for myself,” Reese said. “I just wanted to start over. I feel like I've been on a high since (winning) the national championship, and I want to hit rock bottom.

“I want to be a rookie again. I want to be knocked down by cattle and I want to grow up and be a sponge. I'm really excited to play with and against amazing players.

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Angel Reese celebrates with LSU head coach Kim Mulkey after being selected by the Sky with the seventh overall pick.

Utah's Alyssa Beeley is the Minnesota Lynx's No. Went at 8. Two players from France filled out the top 10: the Wings selected Carla Light at No. 9, and the Connecticut Sun selected Leila Lagan with the 10th pick.

Crowds flocked to the hometown New York Liberty's selection, along with Ole Miss' Markesha Davis at no. Went in at 11. To round out the first round, the Atlanta Dream selected Australian Niyadew Pooch with the 12th pick.

The buzz surrounding Clark joining last year's No. 1 overall pick, Aaliyah Boston, comes with high expectations — and the potential for a larger national audience. On Friday, the WNBA announced that 36 of the WNBA's 40 games will be featured by the WNBA's national broadcast and streaming partners.

“Kaitlyn is one of the most naturally gifted basketball players I've seen entering the WNBA from the college level,” said Fever Head Coach Christy Sides. “Her shooting and passing skills captivated an entire audience of basketball fans, and her ability to make those around her better became even more evident during her college career. We can't wait to bring her to Indiana and join a team in our locker room.”

The Fever had one of the worst records in the league last season, but with the combination of Boston and Clark, it could be one of the hottest tickets in sports.

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“I definitely know the pressure is there. I know it,” Clarke told CNN before the draft on the orange carpet. “There's never any running away from it. But for me, all of my confidence comes from the work I do, from my teammates. I know it's a team sport and that's why I love basketball. It's not a personal game, that's where all my confidence comes from. I always rely on it when moments are tense or things are stressful. Just like that I'm back. ”

Clark wasn't the only one responsible for the increased interest in the sport. Far away.

During the regular season and the NCAA tournament, several college stars like Cardoso, Reese and Brink delivered on the big stage.

Meanwhile, the WNBA has been loaded with stars since the league's inception. That hasn't changed as the league enters its 28th season.

But one big difference in recent years at the professional and collegiate level is how accessible they are to watch (and the amount of media coverage they get).

“I know people keep saying this is a historic draft class, but I think we have to look back at the draft class that's in front of us because we're women that we grew up watching,” Brink told CNN on the Orange Carpet. . “So, we're doing it for them. They're the trailblazers and while this draft class is amazing, and I couldn't be more proud of us, it's the girls who came before us who are really making it happen.

Tickets for Monday's WNBA draft sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Before Monday's draft, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league's goal of expanding to 16 teams was “very optimistic” that could happen by 2028. Currently at 12 teams, the league will expand to 13 by 2025. Added to the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2023, the WNBA had its most-watched regular season in 21 years, and the season-ending WNBA Finals was its most-watched Finals in 20 years. WNBA attendance is up 16% for the 2023 season compared to 2022.

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Adam Paci/AP

From left, Reese, Clark and Stanford's Cameron Brink pose for a photo before the start of the WNBA draft.

“I love where the sport is going right now and want to be a part of the growth,” Reese told CNN on the Orange Carpet. “Whatever happens, I want to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, the NCAA Women's Tournament title game between South Carolina and Iowa was almost a draw 19 million viewers on averageMost watched accomplishments in women's college basketball as measured by Nielsen.

According to Nielsen, the game not only eclipsed the men's final between Purdue and UConn by more than four million viewers, but it was also the most-watched basketball game of the past five years.

After last year's heartbreaking national championship game loss, Clark's last dance with the Hawkeyes ended in almost fairy-tale fashion.

Although Iowa ultimately fell at the final hurdle again — this time at the hands of undefeated South Carolina — Clark's 2023-24 campaign exemplified the impact he made. Women's basketball through her fame and talent.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images/File

Clark enjoyed a historic 2023-24 season with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

She became the all-time leading scorer in both men's and women's division I college basketball last season. Naismith Player of the Year The USA Basketball women's national team was named to the 14-player training camp roster for the second consecutive season, possibly paving the way for an Olympics appearance. Paris 2024. However, Clark was unable to participate as the final was held in week four.

Now, with Clark in the WNBA, that excitement has been pushed forward to what she can accomplish in the pros.

Will Clark's game increase interest at the professional level? Signs point that way. But other players do it too.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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