Plenty of Reasons for Iowans to Watch the WNBA This Year

Spencer Wagen/1600 ESPN

The start of a new WNBA season is almost here, and with it comes plenty of new interest in the game. 

As the stars from the last few years of the women’s college game have “graduated,” so-to-speak, to the pros — fans of players like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Camilla Cardoso, etc., are looking forward to seeing their favorite players at the next level. 

We’ve already seen a little bit of action from them, as the preseason is underway in the league. In case you missed it (and if you’re a Hawkeye fan, it’s likely you didn’t), Caitlin Clark did Caitlin Clark things in her debut with the Indiana Fever last Friday, putting up 21 points (including five threes) in 28 minutes on the floor. 

It was a solid overall debut for No. 22, despite Clark getting into foul trouble early in the second half. Fever head coach Christie Sides said she and her staff continue to work with Clark to help her make the transition from college to the pros, with Clark saying that the physicality and intensity of the pro game is something she’s still getting used to. 

Caitlin Clark and the Fever aside, the Las Vegas Aces may quickly become Iowa’s second favorite team this season because of their multitude of ties to the state. 

Why the Aces? Well, for starters, former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson signed with the defending champs earlier this year on a two-year deal, as did Linn-Mar graduate and UConn alum Kiah Stokes. Then there’s Kate Martin, a second-round pick in last month’s draft who appears to have made the team (for now) after the Aces got their roster down to the required 12 players as of this writing, without Martin being among the cuts. Martin’s long been praised for her work ethic and her knowledge of the game, something Aces star Kelsey Plum has talked about in the preseason. 

Elsewhere, I know Iowa State fans are hopeful that Stephanie Soares can make an impact in what amounts to her first season in the league. You’ll remember her lone season in Ames was cut short after an ACL tear and, despite that setback, she was the fourth overall pick in last year’s WNBA Draft by Washington, who then traded her rights to Dallas. Soares spent the last year rehabbing and was a grad assistant under Bill Fennelly while she worked her way back. Stephen Hunt at The Gazette had a nice piece on her comeback recently. 

Former Cyclone Bridget Carleton continues her WNBA career as well, entering her fifth season in the league. She will look to help the Minnesota Lynx improve on a 19-21 mark last season and a first-round playoff exit. 

Ashley Joens, the Iowa City native and former Iowa State star, hasn’t latched on to a team just yet after playing professionally in Italy but did get a championship ring for her brief stint with Las Vegas last season when the Aces won the title. 

While plenty of eyes will be on Caitlin Clark this WNBA season, there are lots of other Iowa-centric storylines to follow as the action begins. 

Spencer Wagen is the host of “Spencer on Sports,” weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 1600ESPN. You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @SWOnTheRadio