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Geno Auriemma: Caitlin Clark is 'being targeted' to start WNBA career

NS_headshot_clearbackgroundby:Nick Schultz06/05/24

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As she got ready for her WNBA career as the presumptive No. 1 pick, Caitlin Clark received warnings about the physicality of the league. Through the first 11 games of the season, though, some have wondered if Clark is being “targeted” – especially in light of a hard foul in last week’s game against the Chicago Sky.

Tuesday night, one of the all-time great women’s basketball coaches weighed in.

UConn’s Geno Auriemma spoke about the start of Clark’s career, noting the transition that has to take place with rookies. However, he also thinks defenses are playing even tougher against the former Iowa star.

“Every rookie has to go through the growing pains of being a professional basketball player,” Auriemma said, via Connecticut Insider’s Maggie Vanoni. “And the more attention you get, and today’s world attention is No. 1 and attention brings money.

“So is she facing the rookie challenge, the rookie hardships that are inherent with being a rookie? Yes. She’s also being targeted.”

Geno Auriemma: ‘Why are you blaming that kid?’

The conversation about the fouls Clark is facing went to a whole new level this week after Chennedy Carter committed what the WNBA later called a flagrant 1 on Saturday. NCAA basketball’s all-time leading scorer, she brought a level of excitement to college hoops last year, including viewership and ticket sale surges known as the “Caitlin Clark Effect.”

That is also the case in the W. Ticket sales continue to soar, and 1.5 million people tuned in to watch Saturday’s matchup. That growth is why some argue there’s a reason to “protect” Clark.

Auriemma compared her situation to that of some of the great NBA players of all-time, including Michael Jordan. He pointed out players who drew attention to the game and argued they didn’t face the type of hard fouls Clark is.

“I don’t remember when (Michael) Jordan came into the league guys looking to go out and beat him up,” Auriemma said. “I don’t remember when (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson) came in the league and elevated the NBA, I don’t remember them getting targeted and getting beat up just because of who they were and the attention they we’re getting. And I’ve never heard one of them say, ‘Hey, why didn’t you do this when we were playing?’ Because nobody felt like it. It wasn’t the time.

“Appreciate the fact that now’s the time. I get it. I get it. It’s long overdue. Why are you blaming that kid? It’s not her fault because you would trade places with her in a minute, but you are not there. You’re not her. So, you’re (complaining) that she’s getting what she’s getting?”