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Caitlin Clark says she’s ‘confident’ going into WNBA future: ‘I've earned to be in this moment’

Caitlin Clark knows expectations are high for her much-anticipated WNBA debut later this year, and she welcomes the pressure.

In an interview that aired on TODAY April 15, the Iowa Hawkeyes star sat down with NBC correspondent Stephanie Gosk to reflect on the upcoming WNBA draft, which kicks off 7:30 p.m. ET in New York on April 15, and how she feels about the spotlight being on her.

Clark said that feeling of pressure is familiar. "I think when you want to be one of the best players in the world, that just kind of comes with it," she told Gosk.

Clark is predicted to be the No. 1 pick at the draft and go to the Indiana Fever. She said while she doesn't know the exact number, she's heard season tickets are already "selling pretty well" in Indianapolis.

Clark said joining the WNBA will "probably be a little bit of a learning curve" but will provide a "good challenge," and she intends to lean on the confidence she said she’s always had.

“Being confident in all the work I’ve put in, in the moments, and knowing that I’ve earned to be in this moment — that’s always kind of what I remind myself, you know, you’re not here by accident,” she said.

She revealed that self-assurance is also what goes through her mind before she takes her long three-point shots.

"I think sometimes, I feel like I’m closer to the basket than I really am," she said.

"But also, those are shots I practice and work on every single day," she added. "It's not like I just take the court for a game and just start launching those. It's what I work on in the gym every single day with our coaches."

Clark, who became the leading all-time NCAA Division I basketball scorer, male or female, in March, has been credited with bringing new attention to women's basketball. The women's championship game between Iowa and South Carolina had more than 18.9 million viewers April 7, according to ESPN. The men's matchup April 8 between Connecticut and Purdue drew 14.8 million in comparison, per Nielsen.

Similarly, the WNBA draft, which didn't sell tickets for fans to attend in the past few years, sold out in 15 minutes this year.

Clark’s response to the spike in fandom around the sport? “You’re late to the party.”

Clark said she grew up engrossed in women's basketball, whether it was watching televised games or cheering on older cousins who played in Division I.

"This is something I wrote down on a piece of paper when I was in second grade," she said. "Like, get a basketball scholarship, play in the WNBA — this is always something I wanted to do."

She pointed out that women's basketball has always been "really good," citing the "amazing players" who came before her. But the opportunities provided by playing on national television, social media and the ability to be compensated for name, image and likeness, or NIL, have pushed the sport forward, she added.

"Once we’ve been really given an opportunity to show the product, people have really loved it and want to invest in it even more," she said.

Even though some fans are just arriving, Clark wants to welcome them.

"I think the best thing is they’re here now, let’s continue to bring them in and want them to keep coming back for more," she said.

Some of the fans include young girls who look up to athletes like Clark.

"That's the reason you do it," Clark said.

"I think, you know, understanding how big of an impact that can have on a young girl’s life is super important. So I always try to make as much time as I can for them. And just to see them scream your name or have your jersey on — that’s something that never gets old," she shared.

With all the attention, "life's changed a lot," she said, from sold-out crowds to making a cameo on the April 13 episode of "Saturday Night Live."

Clark said her "SNL" appearance was more daunting than getting ready for her final national championship game.

"I don’t get nervous for basketball games," she says. "But going in front of a live audience on national television, doing something outside of your comfort zone, is a little scary. My heart was pounding out of my chest."

The WNBA season starts May 14, one month after the draft. But there's another potential opportunity on the horizon for Clark — the 2024 Paris Olympics. While the women's basketball roster is not set, Clark said representing the United States would "mean everything."

"That’s one of my dreams as a kid. Growing up, you always want to be an Olympic gold medalist. Lucky enough, I’ve been able to play for a few junior national teams in their basketball system, so I know how special it is to represent USA across your chest," she said. "Being able to do that on the highest level would certainly be a dream come true."

Reflecting on her "wild ride" of a season, Clark said there isn't one moment that sticks out in her memory more than the others.

"It’s honestly just all the little moments in between. It’s never a big game or a big event," she said. "I think it’s just the little moments that a lot of people in the public eye don’t get to see. That’s kind of what means the most to me."

This article was originally published on TODAY.com