Sue Bird: Kaitlyn Clark could become a WNBA star as a rookie, which will encourage the Iowa star to turn pro

Caitlin Clark's transcendent play, from her trademark three-point shooting to her unique skills as a “go-forward” passer, has captivated basketball fans from Maine to California. The question that often arises is how she will take her game to the next level. in A wide-ranging 60-minute interview It will air in its entirety Thursday on the “Sports Media Podcast,” and WNBA legend Sue Bird said Clark could be a WNBA star in her first year.

“I think if she maximizes her potential, that's realistic,” Baird said. “And by the way, that's not a knock on anyone in the WNBA. It's going to be tough, but I think she can do it. You have to see what happens when they get there. Now you're playing against the big boys and that's their career. But I think she has a chance to have a lot of success.” Early on, and I think a lot of that goes back to her long-distance shooting. That's her breakout. “You're not really used to guarding people out there.”

Bird went on to say that the era Clarke is entering helps complement her playing style. Another WNBA legend, Diana Taurasi, “could have played the way Caitlyn plays now,” but she didn’t come of age in an era where Clark plays the way he does today, Bird said.

Players in the WNBA aren't used to guarding shooters to that extent, Bird said. Bird retired in 2022 after a 20-year career in the WNBA.

Clark has the option to return to Iowa State next year because of the extra year of eligibility thanks to the NCAA's waiver for student-athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But if she chooses to turn pro and is selected by the Indiana Fever with the No. 1 pick, “that's a really good list for her,” Bird said.

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“She will be teaming up with two really good players (Alia Boston and Nalyssa Smith) who will complement her,” Bird continued. “There's a precedent of people coming out of college and coming in and playing great, players like Candace Parker, Brianna Stewart, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and others. But she still has to come in and do that and there's going to be some growing pains just like all those players I just mentioned.

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Bird spent time with Clark last December in Iowa City as part of her episode ESPN+ original series,“Sue’s Places,” a 10-episode college basketball journey produced in collaboration with Omaha Productions and Words + Pictures that features birds flying across the country to learn about the history and traditions of college basketball. (Clark's loop was triggered On February 14). The fourth-seeded Hawkeyes next play at No. 14 Indiana on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, Peacock).

When asked why Clark captured the imagination of the broader basketball public during her time at Iowa State, Bird said it was a combination of her long-distance shooting and being one of the faces of women's college basketball during such a rising time.

“There are two that stand out the most with it, and let's start with long range shooting,” Bird said. “The only thing that takes away from people's obsession with dunks in terms of comparing men's and women's basketball is the deep shot. If we want to call it the Logo 3, let's call it that. For whatever reason, guys in particular, they don't hate it. There's nothing to hate about it because it is It is what it is. So I think that part of her game makes people cheer for her. I think it's captivating too, right? The way she shoots from long range, it's captivating. Everyone is interested in it. So that's one part of it.”

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“I think the other part is that women's basketball is going through a moment, and that moment needs someone to collaborate with it,” Bird added. “So Caitlin, just based on the year she was born and what she's doing in college now, is in a unique position to take advantage of that moment.” “There are other players right now in college basketball where you can get excited. JuJu Watkins beats him at USC and is arguably one of the best players ever. I'm not saying that loosely. It's because of the way her career started.”

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Caitlin Clark's scoring record makes it historic. Its grandeur makes it unparalleled

Clark's decision to leave Iowa State has become highly controversial in the sports media and among sports fans. Recently, former WNBA MVP Cheryl Swoopes argued that potential rookies like Clark and LSU's Angel Reese will take time to develop in the WNBA because it's a league full of veterans.

When asked what she would do if she were Clark, Byrd didn't hesitate.

“If I was Caitlin Clark, I would be dropping out of college,” Byrd said.

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(Photo: Morgan Engel/NCAA Images via Getty Images)

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