Why Geno Auriemma didn’t recruit Caitlin Clark for UConn women

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After clinching a spot in the Final Four, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma extended an olive branch to Caitlin Clark, the generational superstar who is next on the Huskies’ path to the top.

Clark, the senior at Iowa, is the nation’s leading scorer, the all-time career scoring leader in college basketball, men or women, and she scored 41 points in the Hawkeyes’ victory over LSU on Monday night.

Auriemma expressed hope that Clark didn’t have a “vendetta” against UConn. “I don’t need her dropping 50 points on us,” he said. Monday night, after the Huskies’ 80-73 win over Southern California. And he jokingly walked back his recent statements, which ruffled some feathers, that he coached the best player in the country in Paige Bueckers. UConn and Iowa will meet in the NCAA semifinals on Friday.

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During the tournament, Clark has mentioned that she was disappointed UConn did not try to recruit her, though she stopped well short of saying she would have chosen Storrs. From Des Moines, she chose her hometown school.

“Honestly, it was more I wanted them to recruit me to say I got recruited,” Clark told ESPN. “I loved UConn. I think they’re the coolest place on Earth, and I wanted to say I got recruited by them. They called my AAU coach a few times, but they never talked to my family and never talked to me.”

When the Huskies got to Cleveland, site of the Final Four, the question was waiting for Auriemma, who spoke with reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday evening.

“Well, there are a lot of kids we don’t recruit and a lot of kids who don’t want to come to UConn,” Auriemma said. “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 same backcourt and I’m going to try really hard to recruit Caitlin Clark.’ I don’t do it that way. Caitlin obviously is a tremendous player, a generational player, 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 Bueckers were teammates in USA Basketball. Bueckers, the national high player of the year in Minnesota, was a consensus player of the year at UConn as a freshman and helped the Huskies reach the Final Four in 2021, beating Clark and Iowa along the way. UConn also beat Iowa in Portland in November 2022, while Bueckers was recovering from her knee surgery. Bueckers scored 28 in UConn’s win over USC in the Regional final.

“I don’t think either of us lost out,” Auriemma said. “I think (Clark) made the best decision for her and it worked out great, we made the decision we thought we needed to make. There are a lot of great players coming through high school that we see. You’re only going to recruit some, you’re not going to recruit all of them. Some people do recruit all of them, I don’t. I try to lock in to who fits us, try to lock in on them early and that’s what happened with Paige. I feel really comfortable with that and we went with it. Those are decisions that are made every day, every year by every coach.”



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