Caitlin Clark should listen to Jewell Loyd. Fellow top pick's advice could turn around rookie year.


SEATTLE — Caitlin Clark can learn a lot from Jewell Loyd.

I’m not just saying that because Loyd went off for 32 points in Seattle’s 85-83 win over Indiana Wednesday night. Anyone who’s been paying attention already knows that Loyd is one of the best scorers in the women’s game, a gifted shot-maker who can score anytime, anywhere.

In spring 2015, Loyd was a great college scorer (sound familiar?) who left school a year early to start her pro career. Selected No. 1 by the Seattle Storm, Loyd headed west from Notre Dame … and promptly lost 24 games.

The Storm finished with the second-worst record in the WNBA that season, missing the playoffs while Loyd adjusted to the pros. It’s easy to look at her stats and initially feel underwhelmed, given that she averaged only 10.7 points her first year; last season, her ninth as a pro, Loyd led the league in scoring at 24.7 points per game.

But Loyd proved immediately that she could play at this level. She shot 41.1% from the field, grabbed 3.5 rebounds per game and won Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

Her clearest memory from that season might surprise you, though.

“I remember having fun,” Loyd said Wednesday night. “I came to a team where there was a lot of vets, so I really just had to learn (from them). I wasn’t trying to put any other pressure on myself, and it allowed me to be Rookie of the Year.”

Loyd had plenty of fun Wednesday night too, shooting 50% from the field (12-of-24), dazzling fans with scoop shots and tough finishes at the rim. She was good, efficient and excellent on the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds while also passing out six assists. In a night when many crowded into the arena to watch Clark, it was Loyd who put on a show.

The enthusiasm around Clark is undeniable. Hours before tipoff, hundreds of little boys and girls, many of them in Fever and Iowa shirts, were lining up outside Climate Pledge Arena. Every time Clark caught the ball on the perimeter, the crowd buzzed with anticipation — would this be the moment she hit one of her signature logo 3s?

But instead of a breakthrough game from Clark or her team, fans watched Loyd own the perimeter. Meanwhile, Storm guards Skylar Diggins-Smith and Sami Whitcomb harassed Clark into 6-of-16 shooting. She was visibly annoyed most of the night, clapping her hands in frustration and dropping her head in defeat. She finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but she'll be the first to say she's sick of losing.

Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever fell to 0-5 with a loss to the Seattle Storm.
Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever fell to 0-5 with a loss to the Seattle Storm.

Clark rewriting the record book at Iowa, and doing so in spectacular fashion, helped thousands of people fall in love with women’s basketball. She talked often about how she wanted to play with joy and bring joy to viewers. It became the word most associated with her (partially because “logo 3s” is two words).

Five games into her professional career, that joy is clearly missing. It’s hard to have fun when you’re losing, of course, but Clark remembering that this game is fun would surely help her. While she is uncannily poised for her age and has handled every question and criticism with grace, there’s no question that the load she’s carrying is taking a toll.

“You have to find joy as a pro, because sometimes when you’re playing for money or your job, you lose that joy because it becomes work. You don’t want your work to feel heavy,” said Storm coach Noelle Quinn, who played 13 years in the WNBA before transitioning to coaching. “It’s difficult. Basketball is what we do, it’s not who we are, but at the end of the day it’s our job, we have to show up.”

Wednesday evening, Loyd recalled that she “let the game come to me” as a rookie. Clark has to have a little more urgency than that, simply because the Fever don’t have the veteran presence the Storm did in 2015.

But there’s something to be said for remembering that you get paid to play a game for a living.

When Clark watches this film back, hopefully what stands out to her is all the ways Loyd had fun Wednesday night. And if she applies a little bit of that to her own game, maybe she’ll be the one scoring 30-plus points and leading her team to victory.

All those kids in Clark shirts are waiting for it. And when it happens, they’ll be the most joyful of all.

Email Lindsay Schnell at and follow her on social media @Lindsay_Schnell

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Caitlin Clark would be wise to follow Jewell Loyd advice on WNBA life