Sophie Cunningham, Mercury hope to win Caitlin Clark sweepstakes in WNBA Draft Lottery

Dec 7, 2023, 11:24 AM

Caitlin Clark of Iowa drives against Iowa State...

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes drives by Nyamer Diew #5 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half at Hilton Coliseum on December 6, 2023 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury have been hit hard by change in the past two seasons, but the last several months have alluded to a hard reset. The WNBA Draft Lottery on Sunday could set up nicely for a team under new general manager Nick U’Ren and head coach Nate Tibbetts.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark would be the no-doubt pick if she leaves school. The Mercury own the second-best odds to win the lottery.

“We have been on the struggle bus the past couple years and it has been awful,” Phoenix guard Sophie Cunningham told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Thursday. “We have a new GM, a new head coach and of course the new ownership with Mat Ishbia. There have been changes made over here. So we are feeling good.

“I am a believer so I’m going to leave it up to God’s hand. Whatever good luck or whatever vibes you have, send them our way, because we would love to get Caitlin Clark on this train.”

Phoenix with a 9-31 record in 2023 has a 28% chance at winning the top pick in the WNBA Draft Lottery, behind the Indiana Fever’s 44% odds. Clark has remained the prize through her fourth season at Iowa.

Caitlin Clark is moving up the record books at Iowa before the WNBA Draft Lottery

On Wednesday night against rival Iowa State, Clark scored 35 points and moved past 3,000 points in her career in a 67-58 victory.

Clark’s performance pushed her career point total to 3,013, making her the 15th NCAA Division I women’s player to surpass the 3,000 plateau. She is the first player in men’s or women’s Division 1 to reach at least 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists.

She is averaging a career-high 29.6 points per game in 2023-24. The deadeye shooter is also dishing 7.6 assists per game.

Her competitiveness and aggressiveness have helped grow the college game, especially as she spearheaded the Hawkeyes’ run to the NCAA title game last season. That Iowa-LSU showdown set ESPN platform records across men’s and women’s games with 9.9 million viewers, according to the network.

Part of that coverage was the alternate broadcast on The Bird & Taurasi show, hosted by the retired Sue Bird and Mercury star Diana Taurasi.

Pairing the future Hall of Famer with Clark on the Mercury, Cunningham believes, would be a boon for the sport and the WNBA.

“I feel like if social media and the way that women’s sports is being covered now, I feel like there would’ve been a lot more players like Caitlin Clark,” Cunningham told Bickley & Marotta. “But she has been given this opportunity. She’s a great girl, she’s awesome, she’s an ultimate competitor. I do think she’s going to have that DT effect (like Taurasi did on the sport).

“It’s definitely a different game here in the W, and so it’s going to definitely be a transition period for her. Just the fans that she’s going to bring to the W, the recognition she’s going to bring to the W, I think it’s going to be a great thing for women’s sports. Why not us?”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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