WNBA’s 2024 regular season shines beyond Caitlin Clark with star power rookies

(l-r) Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso Photos by Charles Hallman

by Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman-Reporter

The 2024 WNBA regular season is a lot more than Caitlin Clark.

Despite the Indiana Fever rookie guard seemingly getting daily headlines on her every move, other 2024 WNBA draft class members are also worth watching.

“I think the rest of the rookie class is just sort of equally as dynamic, and I don’t want to get lost in all the Caitlin Clark conversation,” admitted ESPN Vice President, Productions Sara Gaiero, who spoke to reporters last week, including the MSR on her network’s WNBA coverage. “Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson and Nika Muhl and Angel {Reese] and Kamilla [Cardoso]— these are star power names that are in the league, and that will draw significant interest.

“I don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle,” said Gaiero.

ESPN commentator LaChina Robinson said on the same media call, “This class is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the level of popularity. There are a lot of different things you can point to absolutely, starting with their play on the court.

“It’s awesome to see what they’re bringing from the college game into the W in terms of the eyeballs, the anticipation, the excitement … to support this awesome class,” she pointed out.

The MSR talked to both Reese and Cardoso, the Chicago Sky’s two top rookies, when they were in town to play a preseason game against Minnesota.

“Be patient with me. Allow me to grow to be who I am,” said the 6’3″ Reese, the seventh overall pick. The forward has been impressive in the preseason, playing with the same fearless play she displayed in college at Maryland and then LSU. However, Reese is more known for her flashiness off the court, as she was one of the highest-earning college athletes from name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, and her brashness as well.

ESPN SportsCenter this week is doing a feature on Reese, who’s been called “Bayou Barbie” and “Chi Barbie” because she is using her brand appeal to get endorsement deals, which too often overshadows just how good a basketball player she is.

“I have that competitive edge, being able to talk trash,” the Baltimore native told us. “That’s just what we do in Baltimore. That’s how you make your name and be who you are. If you from Baltimore, that’s what you do.”

“Angel is going to be okay offensively in the WNBA,” noted ESPN commentator Rebecca Lobo on Reese. “That’s going to fit perfectly with Teresa Weatherspoon, a teammate of mine for five years. You can just say that those two are probably kindred spirits.”

The 6’7″ Cardoso, fresh off winning a national championship at South Carolina, was drafted third overall by Chicago. However, she injured her shoulder in the Lynx-Sky preseason game and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. She said on draft night how much she looked forward to playing for Chicago Coach Teresa Weatherspoon, a Hall of Famer as her college coach Dawn Staley.

“She’s been here [as a player]. I love her energy,” said Cardoso of T-Spoon.

Reese also said how exciting it is for her to play for Weatherspoon: “We’re learning from each other,” noted the rookie. “I’m just excited just to be a part of this, and we’re going to do great things here together because I plan on being here for a while.”

Because of such incoming players as Reese and Cardoso, Gaiero said ESPN ramped up its WNBA season-long coverage.

Such as WNBA Hoop Streams, where Christine Williamson will be the regular host throughout the season. And Andscape, the sports and pop culture website that covers the intersection of race, sports, and culture, which ESPN owns and operates, reportedly has beefed up its team of journalists and contributions. Most are Black to cover the league and its stars, such as Reese, A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner, and others emerging as culture tastemakers.

“I think there’s such a deep level of stories” to pursue and promote, concluded Gaiero.

WNBA’s 2024 regular season shines beyond Caitlin Clark with star power rookies

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