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It was quite an April for Caitlin Clark. The Iowa Hawkeyes returned to NCAA championship game, and the Indiana Fever selected her with the top pick in the WNBA Draft -- as both events notched record-setting viewership numbers. And then there's that reported $28 million shoe deal from Nike. Yeah, not a bad April.

The next big question for Clark is how she'll fare as she makes the jump to the pros. She joins an Indiana team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2016, but boasts reigning Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston and an upswing as the Fever won more games in 2023 than it did in 2021 and 2022 combined. Everything is trending in the right direction in Indianapolis ahead of training camp, which gets underway on April 28. 

Whether Clark can turn the Fever into a playoff team as a rookie is not the only big question on the horizon for her. A few weeks before draft night, USA Basketball invited her to the women's national team training camp in Cleveland. The only collegiate player in the group, Clark was ultimately unable to participate because she led Iowa to the Final Four that weekend, but the fact that she was already in the mix with Team USA spoke volumes. 

Can she become the first American player to make the Olympic roster fresh off a collegiate season since Breanna Stewart in 2016? Let's take a closer look at the situation. 

How does Clark feel about the Olympics?

It should come ast little surprise that Clark is eager to play in Paris

"USA Basketball, that's your dream," Clark said during a press conference during March Madness. "You always want to grow up and be on the Olympic team. Lucky for me I have the opportunity to possibly not doing that because I want to be at the Final Four playing basketball with my team. But if not, that's where I'll be. People that are on that roster are people that I idolize and have idolized growing up. So just to be extended a camp invite is something you have to be proud of and celebrate and enjoy. 

She echoed those thoughts during her introductory press conference with the Fever on April 17, while noting the challenge that lies ahead. 

"I would love to be on the Olympic team and Paris in 2024, but that's not up to me," Clark said. "That's a dream. ... You grow up watching the Summer Olympics. ... I want to be on that team, I want to be an Olympic medalist one day. It'd really just be a dream come true. Everybody knows how competitive women's basketball is in our country, so it'll be hard for really anybody to make that team." 

That part, then, is settled.

The competition

USA Basketball's women's national team just might be the hardest basketball team to make in the world. The Americans boast the best collection of talent and have won seven consecutive Olympic gold medals and four consecutive FIBA World Cups. In fact, they haven't even lost a game at a major international tournament since the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Cup, when they fell to Russia. 

Some All-WNBA-level players have found it so difficult to break into the group in years past that they decided to represent other countries on the international level. Notable names among them include Becky Hammon (Russia), Courtney Vandersloot (Hungary) and Tiffany Hayes (Azerbaijan). Clark won't need to take that route, but it goes to show how stiff the competition is for the 12 spots on the Olympic roster. 

Here are the six guards that made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021:

  • Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics
  • Sue Bird, retired
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith, Seattle Storm
  • Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces
  • Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
  • Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Two additional rising stars went to the World Cup in Australia in 2022:

  • Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty
  • Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

And another two were on the roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament earlier this year:

  • Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream
  • Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Bird is now retired, but that still leaves nine guards with recent senior national team experience, plus Clark, for a likely six spots on the plane to Paris. 


  • Taurasi: USAB usually leans towards experience with roster decisions, and given Taurasi's previous accomplishments she should be considered a lock if she wants to play. 
  • Loyd: The Storm star won the scoring title last season and has been with the team for the last two World Cups and the most recent Olympics, so she is almost certain to be involved. 
  • Gray: The 2022 Finals MVP has established herself as one of the best point guards in the world and was a starter on the gold medal team at the 2022 World Cup. It's hard to see Cheryl Reeve leaving her at home. 

More likely than not

  • Diggins-Smith: On pure talent, Diggins-Smith would be a lock, but she didn't make her major tournament debut until the Tokyo Games and barely played in that tournament, which does raise some eyebrows. She was also not at the training camp earlier this month. Still, if she's interested she'll likely be on the team. 
  • Atkins: While Atkins may not be as big of a name as some of these other players, she's been a staple of the program for this last cycle and is the best defender in the bunch. It's also worth noting that Mystics GM Mike Thibault is part of Team USA's coaching staff, which gives her a leg up. 

The final spot

  • Clark: There are no questions about Clark's talent, but whether or not she's included may come down to how she adjusts to the profesional level over the next few months. 
  • Howard: The 2022 Rookie of the Year has had an impressive start to her career, but it's hard to see her making the team this time around. 
  • Ionescu: Last summer, Ionescu established herself as the best shooter in the WNBA, which is her clear path to making this team. 
  • Plum: One of the best combo guards around, Plum was on the last two World Cup teams and won gold at the Tokyo Games on the 3x3 team. 
  • Young: The Aces star is the most versatile player in this group, and that's a valuable trait in international play. Like Plum, she also put her time in with the 3x3 team in Tokyo. 

USA Basketball has until July 7, nearly two months into the 2024 WNBA season, to send a final roster to the International Olympic Committee, though the team could be announced before then. Team USA is scheduled to have another training camp in Phoenix as part of WNBA All-Star Weekend from July 18-20. This year's All-Star Game will feature Team USA versus Team WNBA. 

As per usual, the WNBA will take a mid-season break during the Olympics, and games will be paused from July 18-Aug. 14. 

A business decision?

USA Basketball is not a business that has to worry about cost and revenue, but it still could make a business decision to include Clark on the Olympic roster. 

Team USA's dominance on the global stage has become routine at this point, and bringing the biggest star in women's basketball to Paris would generate significantly more interest than usual in their quest for another gold medal. That, in turn, would drive television ratings, jersey sales and advertisement dollars. 

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland told reporters earlier this month that Clark will need to earn her spot. "One of our goals and clear areas of focus is fairness," Hirshland said. "It's the single most important thing to athletes. We ask them questions and survey -- a level playing field and fairness is at the top every time."

Unless Clark is a complete disaster over the first few months of her WNBA career, she's going to have just as much of an on-court case as anyone else in the guard group. And if they're going to be splitting hairs anyway, it's easy to see why USAB would pick the player that is a bigger draw and the future face of the sport. It's also worth noting that Team USA is sponsored by Nike, and Clark is reportedly set to join the Nike family herself. That connection doesn't guarantee anything, but it can only help Clark's odds. 

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," USAB selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti told the Associated Press. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

History on the line

If Clark ends up making the final roster, she would be the first WNBA rookie to play for Team USA at the Olympics since Breanna Stewart in 2016, and just the fifth to do so since the WNBA came into existence in 1997. 

It's worth noting that Stewart actually made the 2014 World Cup team when she was still in college, so she had previous senior national team experience prior to the 2016 Olympics. The other players in this group, however, made their major tournament debut in the Olympics, so there is historical precedent for the leap Clark is trying to make. 

WNBA rookies to play in the Olympics:

  • Diana Taurasi, 2000
  • Sylvia Fowles, 2008
  • Candace Parker, 2008
  • Breanna Stewart, 2016

"It's where I want to be," Clark said. "Three-on-three is really cool, I've just never done it. But five-on-five is the goal and the dream. To play with the best in the world and against the best in the world, you can't script it better than that."