Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark was honored in a touching ceremony at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday to celebrate not just the team’s journey to their second consecutive national runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament but also the retirement of Clark’s jersey, No. 22.

Clark's response to the recognition was as humble as it was gracious.

“It's super incredible, something I'm very thankful for,” Clark said, via the Associated Press.  “There's been a lot of good 22s who have come before me and played for this program, whether it was Kathleen Doyle or Sam Logic. That number holds a lot of weight, far beyond me. I'm really grateful, and it will be a special day when it happens.”

The celebration, attended by about 8,000 fans, was a testament to the connection between the team and its supporters. Clark, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever in Monday's WNBA Draft, took the opportunity to express her gratitude towards Hawkeyes fans.

“I would say you've all inspired me as much as I inspired you,” Clark said, “and you allowed me to live out my dream every single day, and for that, I'm very thankful. It's been very special, and this place will always be home to me.”

Caitlin Clark's Iowa career marked by record-breaking games

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark points to the crowd during a celebration of the Iowa women’s basketball team.
© Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Clark's career at Iowa was marked by her becoming the all-time leading scorer in major college basketball this season, alongside being named the consensus national player of the year. With a career total of 3,951 points and 1,144 assists, Clark has been an All-American in every season since her debut, which notably began with limited attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her journey from playing in front of sparse crowds to leading her team to national recognition highlights her impact on the Hawkeyes program.

The announcement of her jersey retirement by Iowa athletic director Beth Goetz was met with a standing ovation, showcasing the immense respect and admiration for Clark within the Iowa community. Coach Lisa Bluder echoed this sentiment, praising the team's back-to-back runs to the national championship game as “special,” especially this year's performance which defied expectations.

“This year's was also special, because nobody thought we could do it,” Bluder said. “Nobody thought we could repeat what we did last year, except these women up here.”

During the regular season, 238,620 fans attended games, a number which excludes the 55,646 attendees of the “Crossover at Kinnick” outdoor exhibition in October at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, where the single-game attendance record for women's basketball was broken.

Iowa also sold out its two NCAA tournament games as well, with a weekend crowd totaling 28,764—the highest attendance for any first-weekend site in the women's tournament.

“Please come back next year,” Bluder said. “Please fill Carver-Hawkeye Arena next year.”

As the event concluded, Clark circled the arena floor to sign autographs, as she has done throughout her career, mentioning her and her two brothers' admiration for athletes in their youth.

“I wanted to be like them,” she said. “Those were the people who allowed me to dream and be in moments like this.”