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The Big Four shine

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This year’s NCAA Women’s March Madness basketball tournament brought forth buckets of excitement, talent, and success stories in addition to record-shattering viewership. Four athletes in particular rose to the spotlight, gaining attention not only for their incredible talent on the court but for their contributions to the sport of women’s basketball and the future of women’s sports as a whole. Read on to learn more about the impressive careers of Louisiana State University’s Angel Reese, University of Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers, University of Southern California’s JuJu Watkins, and University of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.

 

Reese and the LSU Tigers made a terrific attempt to defend their 2023 title. The forward from Randallstown, Md. was the recipient of the 2023 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award. This season, Reese averaged 18.6 points per game this season, and in the Elite Eight Regional Championship she played through a rolled ankle and scored 17 points. LSU fell 94-87, but Reese’s career is far from over. “My ultimate goal is to be a pro,” she told Vogue in an interview. “And to be one of the greatest basketball players to play, ever. I feel like I’m ready.” Reese declared for this year’s highly anticipated WNBA Draft, set to take place on April 15.

 

UConn Huskies point guard Bueckers was born in Edina, Minn. During her high school career at Hopkins High School, Bueckers was recognized with the 2019 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year award. In 2020, she won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. Bueckers logged 17 points in the Huskies’ nail-biting 71-69 loss to Iowa in the Final Four and played the entire game for a team affected by several injuries. Bueckers, 22, announced that she will be returning to the court for the Huskies next year as a super-senior. “I just feel like I’m not done yet here,” the star told SportsNet New York in an interview.

 

Juju Watkins made waves in her freshman season at USC, averaging 27.1 points per game. Though the Trojans fell to UConn 80-73 in the Elite Eight, the guard from Los Angeles, Calif. netted 29 points. This season, Watkins was awarded the Ann Meyers Drysdale award, given to the best shooting guard in the NCAA Division I competition. As a high school senior at Los Angeles’s Windward School, Watkins was awarded the 2023 Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. 

 

On March 3, University of Iowa guard Clark made history when she shattered the NCAA all-time scoring record in both the men’s and women’s game, earning her 3,685th career point as a Hawkeye. It was a season of records for the Iowa native, who broke 500 career three-pointers — another record — and on Feb. 29, surpassed her previous single-game scoring best and earned 49 points in the Hawkeyes’ 106-89 win over Michigan. The Hawkeyes fell short in the national championship in an 87-75 loss to an undefeated University of South Carolina team, but Clark and her teammates have much to be proud of this season. Clark — like Reese — has declared for the 2024 WNBA Draft, leaving behind a tremendous legacy at her alma mater and leaving fans excited to see her shine at a new level. The University of Iowa announced on Apr. 10 that Clark’s number, 22, will be retired.

sablak1@stolaf.edu