Caitlin Clark understands the attention that has surrounded her WNBA debut and the recent controversy from a game against the Chicago Sky. However, she’s intent on keeping her focus on the court and just really wants to play basketball.

Last Saturday, Clark and the Indiana Fever registered a tight win against the Sky, but it was a mid-game situation that drew a heavy dose of controversy. During the 3rd quarter of that game, Chennedy Carter flattened Clark with an obvious foul off the ball.

Originally, and wrongly, called a common foul during the game, the WNBA later upgraded the foul to a flagrant, which should have been the call from the start. Angel Reese, a rival of Clark’s in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, was spotted celebrating the unnecessary foul by Carter.

On Friday, Carter was asked about the situation and the fallout that has raged on social media and on talk shows across the country. She admitted she’s been aware of the conversation, but she ultimately wishes the conversation could center on the game on the court and how well the WNBA is performing this season.

“I’m not on social media so I don’t see a lot of it… You’re still aware of it and you still see it, but my focus is basketball. Sometimes it stinks how much the conversation is outside of basketball and not the product on the floor and the amazing players that are on the floor and how good they are for their teams and how great this season has been for women’s basketball,” said Clark.

“I think you’ve just got to focus on your locker room, what’s in your organization, how your teammates feel, how your coaches feel. For me, that’s my focus but I’ve also got a job to do at the same time.”

Clark ultimately agreed the exposure from the conversation has been good for the sport, but she also wants to focus on basketball.

“The conversations are going to happen. It’s good for women’s basketball but at the same time, it’s important for people to remember that I just love playing basketball,” Clark reiterated. “That’s what I’m here for, I’m not here for all the other stuff.”

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Keeping the main thing the main thing

Clark is saying all the right things. After all, with all the expectations of a No. 1 overall pick and transcendent talent, she would like nothing more than to focus on her game.

The problem resides in the WNBA’s officiating so far this season and a lack of desire to call obvious hard fouls for what they deserve to be called.

Had Carter’s initial shove been whistled as a flagrant right away, it’s unlikely there would have been the type of vitriol toward the incident. Unfortunately, officials were unwilling to make that tough call, leaving everyone to endlessly undress the mess.

As a highly-touted rookie, Clark can continue to expect teams to try and send a message with hard fouls early on, and there’s nothing wrong with that — on the surface. Hard fouls, especially for young stars, are commonplace and are acceptable, provided they are delivered in the proper context.

Carter’s foul was not the proper context as a blindside cheap shot away from the ball. And failing to call it a flagrant immediately only encourages other players to take similar shots on Clark.

Hopefully, the WNBA addresses the early lapse in officiating because Clark and the rest of the players deserve to have the game be the focus on the court. But until things are tightened up, the league is only inviting more controversy unrelated to the actual play of the games.