Caitlin Clark set for Indiana’s preseason home debut. Fever to open arena’s 3rd deck vs Atlanta

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Iowa's Caitlin Clark celebrates after an NCAA Women's Final Four semifinals basketball game against South CarolinaFriday, March 31, 2023, in Dallas. Iowa won 77-73 to advance to the championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

BY MICHAEL MAROT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Caitlin Clark spent Wednesday practicing inside an empty Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

On Thursday night, Indianapolis’ new game-changing rock star will be welcomed by a raucous, near sellout crowd of 17,000 that believe the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick can instantly change the Indiana Fever’s fortunes.

A little more than a month after leading Iowa to its second straight NCAA championship game, Clark will make her Fever home debut in a preseason game against the Atlanta Dream.

“People definitely know who I am,” Clark said Wednesday. “Sometimes it’s hard to go out and do what I want to do, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want it any other way. That’s the best way to grow women’s basketball. That’s the best way to get these fans excited about what we’re going to do here, so I think people they are just as excited as we are to play here. So I think more than anything, enjoy it, soak it in.”

Clark’s mere presence already has made a difference. In the preseason opener Friday night at Dallas, she scored a team-high 21 points in a 79-76 loss in front of another near sellout. The Fever will have 36 of their 40 games televised nationally and her regular-season debut May 14 at Connecticut will be the first live sporting event streamed on Disney+.

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Closer to home, the Fever will open up the third deck of their home arena rather than having seating in only the two lower decks. The change means Indiana could draw more than 17,000 fans to a preseason game that was moved up a day because of the NBA playoffs. The Indiana Pacers will host the New York Knicks in Game 3 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal Friday night.

Fever officials wouldn’t say Wednesday how many tickets were still available — only that there was a limited amount. And yet they could still have a sellout for the most anticipated home debut for an Indiana athlete since Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck.

For Clark, playing in front of full arena has become the norm. For her teammates and coaches, this could be the start of something bigger than they could have imagined.

“This is what women’s basketball has always been about,” said Aliyah Boston, the WNBA’s 2023 rookie of the year. “I think it’s really great that fans are following their favorite players from college into the league because that’s the way we continue to grow.”

Especially when it comes to a generational-type player such as Clark, who has fully embraced her new home city.

“Honestly, I’m expecting a lot of people to be here, I’m expecting it to be loud, I’m expecting the fans to be really in it,” Clark said. “Like I know these fans are going to show up, and they know what’s going to be going on on the court. I think sometimes you can show up to arenas and they’re just sitting there. But like when I was in college, they were invested, they know what’s going on.

“I think it’s the same thing in the state of Indiana, people that support the Fever, that support the Pacers, they’re invested. So they’re going to cheer, they’re going to get after the refs.”

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball

  

by Taboola 

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