Caitlin Clark ‘hungry’ to script storybook Iowa ending in March Madness Final Four

CLEVELAND — Her star has captured more attention than any total solar eclipse. But now, on the biggest and brightest stage beginning on Friday night against Paige Bueckers and UConn, Caitlin Clark is a woman on a mission.

Two games to win.

Go win them.

Go honor your greatness.

Go beat UConn in the Final Four semifinal and go beat the South Carolina-N.C. State winner Sunday afternoon and cut down the net inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse as a champion, one year after the confetti fell on Angel Reese and LSU.

She has seen it all in her dreams.

“I think visualization is a huge part of what we do, and that’s something Coach [Lisa] Bluder always talks about is like see yourself where you want to be, see yourself being successful, see yourself accomplishing your goals,” Clark said.

“I don’t think I need much more motivation than being at the Final Four and extending my career, like absolutely I’m hungry.”

Caitlin Clark and Iowa can inch closer to a national championship with a win against UConn on Friday. USA TODAY Sports

Hungry for a storybook ending for the ages.

“I think if you can win a national championship to end your college career, you can’t really script it any better,” Clark said.

She couldn’t have scripted her rise to the top of women’s college basketball as a supernova icon either. She references the handwritten “Pressure is a Privilege” Billie Jean King quote that is framed in the Iowa locker room.

“Whether you want to act like the pressure is there or not, like it just is, that’s just the flat-out point,” Clark said. “I think that’s something I’ve just accepted. I go about my business every single day, like I don’t really feel the pressure.”

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“I know I’ve prepared for these moments, I know I’ve put in the work for these moments so you go out there and just let your work shine. It’s never like ‘What if’s?’ in my head, like I know I’m ready for this moment and then win or lose, that’s what it was meant to be.”

The impact of her genius has infused her teammates with a similar belief. She hasn’t lost any sleep over legendary UConn Coach Geno Auriemma not recruiting her.

“Nobody on our team is like afraid of this moment, we know we should be in this moment,” Clark said. “Every young girl all across the United States is like, ‘What team do you watch?’ Everybody says UConn, like that’s just how it is.”

Caitlin Clark celebrates during Iowa’s Elite Eight win against LSU. Getty Images

Plenty still say UConn. Plenty today say Iowa. Because of Clark.

In many precincts outside of UConn country and South Carolina and North Carolina State, a mesmerized army of Caitlin Clark wannabes — young girls and boys — who can let their basketball imagination run wild about all the possibilities now will be cheering her on. More than a few will be leading with their mothers or fathers to stay up past the 9:30 p.m. tipoff time. More than anyone, she has made women’s college basketball such must-watch television that a staggering 12.3 million viewers were glued to Iowa’s Elite Eight win on Monday night over Reese and LSU.

She is magic, fearlessly drilling logo 3s from West Des Moines when she isn’t Magic, a fancy passer but no passing fancy.

“I can almost see things happening before they happen,” Clark said.

She is driven to be better tomorrow than she is today. She has the Mamba mentality.

“You’re gonna do anything to win,” Clark said.

She has come a long way from when she was a little girl with big dreams.

“I have like a vivid memory growing up watching Jimmermania, like Jimmer Frenette, like I just loved him,” Clark said. “I had the shirt that said, ‘Teach me how to Jimmer.’ ”

Now? Teach me how to Caitlin.

Caitlin Clark hit nine 3-pointers during Iowa’s Elite Eight win against LSU. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“My freshman year we’re not even using the March Madness branding,” she said. “It’s crazy to see how fast it’s changed. When you’re given opportunity, women’s sports really thrives.”

Cleveland is Believeland, right?

“Obviously with LeBron James like being the face of Cleveland, and being able to play here when he first started his NBA career, like that’s just super cool,” Clark said.

It’s super cool for her For the first time in three years, she’s set to duel her former USA Basketball teammate, who was ESPN’s No. 1 recruit out of Hopkins H.S. in Minnetonka, Minn., and found herself on the cover of Slam Magazine.

“It was just surreal,” Bueckers said.

Of course it brought an added pressure.

“Just like LeBron when he came out — I’m not comparing myself to LeBron, but when he came out of high school, there was so much hype around him, you just want to live up to that, and even exceed it at some points,” Bueckers said. “I mean, there’s always pressure with wanting to be great, but I think that’s what makes the great ones great.”

Paige Bueckers and UConn face Iowa in the Final Four on Friday. USA TODAY Sports

As great as Bueckers is again following the devastating loss of the 2022-23 season to a torn ACL, Caitlin Clark is the supernova with a basketball in her hands.

“You can’t stop Caitlin, she’s gonna get hers,” Bueckers said.

We have witnessed these phenomenons before, and they do not come around often enough.

There was Jeremy Lin and Linsanity, and there was Tommy DeVito and Tommy Cutlets, and now there is Caitlin Clark.

This one won’t be here today, gone tomorrow.

Caitlin Clark scored 41 points in Iowa’s win against LSU. USA TODAY Sports

“At the end of the day people aren’t going to remember how many points I scored,” Clark said. “People aren’t going to remember — people may remember we were in the Final Four twice — but people aren’t going to remember like my buzzer-beating shots versus whoever. That’s not going to matter to people in the end.

“I hope they remember how we made them feel, how we brought joy to their lives, how we gave their families something to scream about on the TV on the weekends. I hope those are the biggest things people remember.

“I hope all the young boys and girls remember the joy that we played with and how we took 10 seconds of our time to sign their autograph and that inspired them to be whatever they want to be.”

Oh by the way, there is a men’s Final Four in Glendale, Ariz, which begins Saturday at State Farm Stadium — defending champ UConn vs. Alabama and Purdue vs. N.C. State.

Ladies first.

And because of Caitlin Clark, ladies first and foremost, at long last.

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