Caitlin Clark isn't instantly dominating WNBA. That's not surprising. She wasn't going to.

INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark missed (another) 3 and threw her hands up in frustration.

Obviously fed up with her scoring output — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft had just two points through almost 30 minutes of play — she struggled as the New York Liberty blew out Indiana 102-66 in the Fever’s home opener.

More than 17,000 fans packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse Thursday evening, many of them in Clark jerseys and T-shirts, eager to get a look at one of the biggest superstars on the planet. They’d watched the highlights, the "how-did-she-see-that?!" passes and the logo 3s, and came to see The Show in person.

And then it kind of … fell flat. Again. Clark scored, but not like she used to. Her team got run out of its own gym.

What, did you think Clark was going to walk into this league and dominate from Day 1? Lift the Fever to WNBA title contention immediately? Rewrite the professional record books all because she was a college superstar?

Many of you are new here. Let me be the first to say, we are thrilled to have you. As a diehard women’s basketball fan since the time I was about 8, I love seeing so many people fall in love with a game I’ve worshipped for almost three decades.

But it occurs to me, as fans flood WNBA arenas to watch Clark and her fellow rookies, that this has become what educators everywhere would call “a teachable moment.” So let’s get learning.

The single most important reality to understand: The WNBA is full of grown women who are no strangers to college superstars. These are veteran players, many of whom have been playing professionally for a decade or more. They have seen every move in the book, and defended most of them first-hand. They respect Clark’s game, but they are not awed by her.

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark shows her frustration during the game against the New York Liberty.
Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark shows her frustration during the game against the New York Liberty.

Everyone wants to talk stats when it comes to Clark, and understandably so. The 22-year-old guard scored 3,591 points in college, more than any other player in the history of college basketball. She also dished 1,144 assists and snagged 990 rebounds. She was a two-time national player of the year.

But in this league, that’s not a novelty. Consider this stat: Of the 139 WNBA players listed on opening day rosters, a staggering 95 of them were college All-Americans. And of that group, nearly half — 47, to be exact — were first team All-Americans.

Some of them even earned that distinction four consecutive years, just as Clark did. Breanna Stewart, one of Clark’s opponents Thursday night, is in that rarified air, too. Arguably the greatest college player of all time after winning four consecutive titles at UConn, Stewart had 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks Thursday. She’s won two MVP crowns for a reason.

This is not to say that Clark won’t become a great WNBA player. But everyone who thought she’d immediately separate herself from All-Stars and championship veterans clearly hasn’t been paying attention to the W or respecting the players who have dominated this league for a while.

Clark has plenty of time left to establish herself as a superstar. Provided she stays healthy, she has a long career ahead of her. She can, and will, get into a groove. It might even come this year — like maybe after she has 30 practices under her belt, instead of just 12.

Clark didn’t play bad Thursday night. Far from it. In fact, she wasn’t that far off from a triple-double, with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists. She only had three turnovers, a significant improvement from 48 hours prior, when she threw the ball away 10 times. There were flashes of the Clark everyone knows and loves, too: She scored seven points in 81 seconds in the third quarter, drawing two fouls (she went 4-of-4 from the free throw line) and hitting one of her signature 3s. There will be more of that, even if it comes a little later than many expected.

If anything, it’s a good thing it’s taking Clark time to adjust — it speaks to how good the league is, and with more eyeballs on the WNBA, fans will learn there are plenty of other players worth supporting in addition to Clark. There’s no need for anyone, including Clark, to panic.

Yes, there’s a lot of hype around Clark. There was a lot of hype around LeBron James his rookie season also. Kobe Bryant, too. Do you remember the first years for those generational talents? James didn’t make the All-Star team, and Bryant played about 15 minutes a game. I’d say their careers turned out just fine.

There’s no question Clark has helped elevate the women’s game. But up here, there are lots of ballers. Lesson learned.

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Caitlin Clark off to slow start in WNBA. Why that's not surprising.