UConn resisted pairing Paige Bueckers with Caitlin Clark

With a chance to bring in Caitlin Clark as part of the recruiting class of 2000, UConn admits to having blinders on and focusing on another player.

There is only one ball, after all, and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma made an early offer to Paige Bueckers before he was even in position to consider any other point guard in that class.

“I committed to Paige Bueckers very, very early, and it would have been silly for me to say to Paige, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to put you in the backcourt, and then I’m going to try really hard to recruit Caitlin Clark.’ I don’t do it that way,” Auriemma said as the Huskies prepare to face Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in Cleveland in one of two national semifinals Friday night.

It’s not as if Clark was underrated — she signed with homestate Iowa as the No. 4 player in the 2020 recruiting class and had a fistful of offers. She called UConn her “dream school” but also said in 2019 she wanted the assurance of an opportunity to be in the rotation as a freshman.

She said this week she never heard from UConn directly, but knew some of Auriemma’s staff had been in contact with her AAU coach. Auriemma also “there’s a lot of kids that don’t want to come to UConn” and he never heard from Clark, either.

“Caitlin obviously is a tremendous player, a generational player,” Auriemma said. “But if Caitlin really wanted to come to UConn, she would have called me and said, ‘Coach, I really want to come to UConn.’ ”

Clark and the Hawkeyes advanced to the national championship game last year, losing to LSU.

Both players have All-American on their resume and each was named National Player of the Year. Clark said she didn’t return to Iowa this season to chase scoring records but to be back in the Final Four and “finish the job.”

“Again, when the stage is the brightest, when the spotlight is the brightest, she’s at her very best. She loves this,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said as the Hawkeyes arrived in Cleveland. “Some people wither in the moment. She just gets stronger in the moment. When it’s her time, I mean, she’s going to just shine.”

–Field Level Media