Caitlin Clark’s Catholic upbringing may not get as much attention as her scoring records, career goals or 3-point shot, but it’s a key part of her path to college basketball stardom and one of the forces that made her who she is today.

Here’s a look at Clark’s religious roots, as well as what she’s said about her faith.

Related
The rise of women’s basketball and why it matters
Why Iowa-UConn is a must-watch game

Caitlin Clark’s childhood

Clark was raised Catholic in West Des Moines, Iowa. She, along with her brothers, attended Catholic elementary and high schools, fitting religion classes into daily schedules crammed with academic obligations and sports practices.

In 2018, as a high school sophomore, Clark told the Des Moines Register that Dowling Catholic High School is a “special place to go to school” because of its emphasis on prayer.

“We get to live our faith every day. Dowling starts every day with prayer and ends every day with prayer. This is a big reason why Dowling has such a special culture,” she said.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates after defeating LSU in an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. | Mary Altaffer

Dowling Catholic was not a basketball powerhouse, and it didn’t qualify for the state tournament during Clark’s senior year, according to ESPN.

But Clark’s play still got national attention, and she was recruited by top colleges, including the University of Notre Dame, which is many Catholics’ dream school.

“My family wanted me to go to Notre Dame,” Clark told ESPN. “At the end of the day they were like, you make the decision for yourself. But it’s NOTRE DAME!”

Clark initially did commit to Notre Dame, but then changed her mind. She didn’t tell her parents until after she’d called the Notre Dame and Iowa coaches to break the news.

“Her parents both call the family meeting that followed ‘emotional’ and say they realized, truly in that moment, that their daughter had a vision for herself more ambitious and nuanced than any they could conjure,” ESPN reported.

Caitlin Clark at Iowa

At Iowa over the past four years, Clark has met many of her loftiest goals and taken major steps toward achieving others.

She’s led Iowa to its first national championship game, broken scoring records and become the face of NCAA women’s basketball.

And she’s done it all while staying connected to her family and her faith.

In the ESPN article, Clark described her mom as one of her best friends and her dad as a constant presence.

Her two brothers often come to games to support her, and her older brother, Blake, has talked about praying for her success.

Blake Clark also regularly reminds his sister “to say her rosary and go to the church near campus,” ESPN reported, citing a source at the church who believes the basketball star does attend “more Sundays than not.”

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) huddles with teammates on the court before playing LSU in an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. | Hans Pennink

Caitlin Clark and religion

Clark’s Catholicism is rarely mentioned in coverage of her basketball career. That might be because she’s not as vocal about her faith as other young basketball stars, including UConn’s Paige Bueckers.

While Bueckers talks about God in postgame interviews, Clark mostly talks about her performance, her teammates and her goals for the next game.

In 2022, she did reference prayer in a tweet about Bueckers suffering a season-ending knee injury.

“Praying for you,” Clark said.

Many of Clark’s fans say she’s a role model for young people of faith, regardless of how often she references God, since she embodies values like humility and concern for others.

“I think she represents what’s best about being raised in the Catholic faith,” said Shelley Goodell, a member of the church Clark grew up attending, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in West Des Moines, to the Diocese of Des Moines last year.

Similarly, Clark’s high school coach, Kristin Meyer, has said Clark should be celebrated for how she uses her God-given talents.

“She knows that she has some talents that other people weren’t necessarily born with, and she’s just looking to maximize them not just for herself but for her teammates, and on an even bigger scope for the fans,” Meyer told Crux earlier this year.

Related
What UConn's Paige Bueckers has said about her faith

How to watch Iowa-UConn

Clark and Iowa take on Bueckers and UConn Friday night in the Final Four of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

The game will start around 7:30 p.m. MDT. It will air on ESPN and stream on ESPN+.