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From Iowa to Indiana: Peyton Manning and Jamie Horowitz’s Omaha Productions Chronicle Caitlin Clark’s Path as Top WNBA Draft Pick

In a move that surprised no one, the Indiana Fever used the first pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft to select Caitlin Clark, the electrifying, record-breaking point guard from the University of Iowa. Clark, who burst onto the national scene with a dazzling performance in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, is expected to make an immediate impact for a Fever team looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“We couldn’t be more excited to add a transformational talent like Caitlin to our roster,” said Fever GM Tamika Catchings. “Her playmaking ability, scoring prowess, and infectious enthusiasm for the game have the potential to take our franchise to new heights. She’s a perfect fit for our up-tempo system and the face of the Fever for years to come.”

The 6-foot Clark averaged 27.8 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game in her senior season at Iowa, leading the Hawkeyes to a 32-3 record and their first Final Four appearance since 1993. She capped her collegiate career with a 42-point outburst against LSU in the national championship game, a tally surpassed only by Sheryl Swoopes’ 47 in the 1993 title game.

Clark’s selection marks just the second time the Fever have held the #1 overall pick in their 24 years in the league. In 2001, Indiana drafted Tennessee’s Tamika Catchings, who went on to a Hall of Fame career and now serves as the team’s general manager. The Fever are hoping lightning strikes twice with Clark.

“I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the WNBA,” Clark said. “I can’t wait to get to Indianapolis, meet my new teammates and coaches, and start this next chapter. I promise to work hard every single day to make the Fever organization and our fans proud.” 

Fever fans have high expectations for their prized rookie, with Clark jersey pre-orders already breaking franchise records. Many WNBA pundits predict Clark will capture Rookie of the Year honors and make an immediate push for a spot on the All-WNBA First Team.

Her unparalleled court vision, dominant three-point shooting (41% on over 8 attempts per game as a senior), and fiery on-court demeanor have drawn comparisons to some of basketball’s all-time greats.

“There’s a lot of young Steph Curry in Caitlin’s game,” said ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo. “She has that ability to pull up from anywhere and shoot with incredible accuracy. And like Steph, she has a flair and joy to her game that people are drawn to. The sky’s the limit in terms of her potential impact on the Fever, the WNBA, and the game of basketball.”

Clark’s impact is already being felt off the court, as her rise to stardom has coincided with an explosion of interest in women’s college basketball.

The 2023 NCAA Women’s Final Four featuring Clark and Iowa was the most viewed women’s championship weekend in over a decade. Last season’s championship battle between Clark’s Hawkeyes and Reese’s LSU Tigers averaged 12.3 million viewers on ABC, making it the most-watched college basketball game, men’s or women’s, in ESPN history.

The smashing success of the NCAA Women’s Tournament has TV networks excited at the prospect of a Clark-fueled WNBA ratings boom.

ESPN’s Chairman Jimmy Pitaro expressed generous optimism for the WNBA’s future during recent rights renewal discussions with the league.

“Caitlin Clark’s performance in the tournament was an inflection point for our network and women’s sports in general,” said Pitaro. “Her brilliance on the big stage opened a lot of eyes to the incredible talent in the women’s game. We believe it will translate to unprecedented interest in the WNBA among existing fans and newcomers alike.”

The WNBA isn’t the only entity eager to capitalize on Clark’s skyrocketing popularity with basketball fans across America and beyond. A new four-part docuseries titled “Full Court Press,” produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions and Words & Pictures in partnership with ESPN+, will chronicle the inspiring journeys of Clark, senior South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, and sophomore UCLA guard Kiki Rice.

The series, which has been embedded with these three players throughout a record-breaking season, will use unparalleled access, exclusive interviews, and unique game footage to transport audiences into the lives of exceptional athletes as they steer their celebrated programs towards national championship glory.

“I remember what it meant to the University of Tennessee and the entire state when Pat Summitt led the Lady Vols to back-to-back national titles during my time in Knoxville,” said Peyton Manning, founder of Omaha Productions. “We’re excited to share the stories of these three amazing women to a national audience at this incredible moment for women’s basketball.” 

Director Kristen Lappas added, “As someone who has grown up a devout fan of the women’s game, I am thrilled that we are able to make this show at this pivotal moment in the history of the sport. To be able to pull back the curtain and document Caitlin Clark’s historic season has been a privilege for our entire team.” 

Since its founding in 2020, Omaha Productions has specialized in creating highly entertaining and engaging content with elite athletes and strong role models. Omaha Productions President Jamie Horowitz, the veteran sports media executive credited with reshaping sports talk shows like First Take and SportsNation, says “Full Court Press” has the potential to be Omaha’s most impactful project yet.

“At Omaha, we’re always looking to celebrate the human stories underneath the helmet or jersey,” said Horowitz. “With Caitlin Clark, you have this spectacular combination of talent, charisma, work ethic and passion. Our goal is to give viewers a unique look at her journey and the incredible women’s college basketball season we all just watched.”

Horowitz and Manning have previously produced several series hosted by women who just finished amazing athletic careers. Abby Wambach hosted a 10-part soccer series on ESPN+, Sue Bird did a similar series on college hoops, and Ronda Rosey hosted a 10-part series on fight sports. 

However, this series with Caitlin Clark feels more impactful even before it airs. At least in part because of the incredible recent ratings for Clark’s games. Earlier this month, a record 18.7 million people tuned into the NCAA championship game to see Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It was the most watched women’s basketball game ever and the most watched basketball game period – men’s or women’s, pro or college – since 2019. Then on Monday a record 2.45 million viewers tuned in to the 2024 WNBA draft on ESPN to witness the Indiana Fever select Clark with the first overall pick on Monday, demolishing the previous record for viewers. According to ESPN, viewership of the 2024 WNBA Draft peaked at 3.09M.

“What we’re seeing with Caitlin Clark, and women’s basketball overall, is hopefully just the next step in the continued rise of women’s sports,” said Horowitz. “The ratings are impossible to ignore.”

 “Full Court Press” will premiere May 11 & 12 on ABC and ESPN+, with all episodes immediately available to stream on ESPN+ following the initial linear broadcast. With Omaha Productions at the helm and some of the brightest young stars in sports as its focus, the project has all the ingredients to be a slam dunk with fans old and new.

Meanwhile, Clark is determined to deliver a Rookie of the Year campaign and establish herself as a key piece of the Indiana Fever’s new foundation and brighter future. If her collegiate career is any indication, she will pursue these goals with the same unselfish approach and infectious joy that have fueled her meteoric rise to women’s basketball stardom.

“I’m not Caitlin-focused, I’m team-focused,” Clark said after being drafted. “Whatever I need to do to help the Fever succeed and push the women’s game forward, that’s what I’m going to do. Basketball has given me so much. This is my chance to give back.”

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