Iowa’s Caitlin Clark was the talk of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which ended Sunday with a big LSU win over Clark’s Hawkeyes.
Clark scored more total points during the tournament than any player in any men’s or women’s NCAA tournament before. She was also the first player in tournament history with back-to-back 40-point games, according to CBS Sports.
After a historic tournament like that, Clark is surely ready for the WNBA, right?
While Clark has the talent, she is not eligible for the 2023 WNBA draft, which will be held on April 10. Unlike in the NBA, a potential WNBA player has to be a graduating senior or turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft to be eligible, according to the WNBA’s website.
Clark, a 21-year-old junior, won’t be eligible until the 2024 WNBA draft.
The same was true for Paige Bueckers after she led the University of Connecticut to the national championship in 2022.
Bueckers missed this year’s tournament and the entire season after tearing her ACL, but she said in September that she would return to the Huskies for the 2023-204 season, despite being eligible for the 2023 draft, ESPN reported.
Even if a player is eligible for the draft, they may choose to play collegiately for another year to improve their draft stock. There are only 36 picks in the draft, and only 17 of last year’s picks made opening day rosters, according to Just Women’s Sports.
Which stars of the 2023 tournament will leave for the WNBA and who may be returning to the tournament next year?
Despite having an extra year of NCAA eligibility, University of South Carolina star Aliyah Boston declared for the WNBA draft on Saturday, the day after falling to Iowa in the semifinals, which was South Carolina’s only loss of the season.
“She’s great. She’s ready,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said on Friday, per ESPN. “I slept very well knowing she was with our program, and I’ll sleep well knowing that she’s okay and she will definitely make her mark at the next level.”
Boston is a two-time Naismith defensive player of the year and SEC player of the year. She set the program record for double-doubles with 72, according to ESPN.
She is FanDuel’s favorite to be selected by the Indiana Fever as the no. 1 pick in the WNBA draft.
LSU’s Reese may be better known for taunting Clark during the national championship game than how she played, but she was named Most Outstanding Player of the women’s Final Four.
Reese will have to wait until 2024 to use that performance to help her draft stock. Despite only being a sophomore this season, Reese can declare for the 2024 draft because she will turn 22 next year.
She averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds this season, according to ESPN. If she decides to enter the 2024 draft, she would be entering a draft class with Clark and Bueckers as likely top picks.
The Pac-12 player of the year will return to the University of Utah next season and use her last year of eligibility, the Deseret News previously reported. Before transferring to Utah, she played three seasons at USC, where she earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors.
Alissa Pili averaged 20.7 points and 5.6 rebounds this season, according to ESPN. She led the Utes to the Sweet 16, but they lost to LSU, the eventual national champions. She finished the game with 14 points and five rebounds.
Newly crowned national champion Alexis Morris declared for the WNBA draft on Tuesday on Instagram.
Ahead of the national championship game, the guard said LSU would force Iowa to guard them after the “disrespectful” defense they played against South Carolina.
“I don’t think you can just leave me open on the perimeter or leave us open on the perimeter,” she said, according to ESPN. “Me personally, I find it very disrespectful, so I’m going to take that personally going into that game. You’re going to have to guard us.”
The Tigers followed up that talk with their 102-85 win, which was the first time a team scored 100 points in the NCAA women’s national championship, NPR reported. Morris finished the game with 21 points and nine assists, according to ESPN.