Jim O'Donnell: Olympics snub should be the pause that refreshes for Caitlin Clark

CAITLIN CLARK NEEDS ANOTHER BASKETBALL SPOTLIGHT likes Taylor Swift needs another standing ovation.

Both have had transcendent 2023-24 campaigns. If genders must be parsed, both have also made bold statements about the empowerment of women.

More universally, the two have elevated many human spirits.

Clark's reward for her tireless toil has been to be left off of the initial 12-women roster that will represent United States women's basketball at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

Hopefully, it will remain that way.

AFTER MONTHS OF RACING up and down basketball courts to lift the women's version of the sport, could she have gotten any better news?

Up close, what it means is that for the first time in a long time, Clark will have more than three glorious weeks to rest and regenerate.

From the end of the WNBA All-Star weekend on July 20 until the regular season of the Indiana Fever resumes on Friday night, Aug. 16, her life is her own.

Sometimes, the stupidity and clubbishness of others can pay off huge.

Anything from a ball cap-and-shades stroll through Jordan Creek — the Woodfield of West Des Moines — to a long balmy getaway where azure waves break white can now be entered on to the list of fresh Caitlin's midsummer options.

CONSIDER THE NEW OUI-OUI of left-banking updates:

--- The WNBA continues to need Clark more than Clark needs the WNBA. She has been a generational elevator, through sheer force of talent, poise and magnetism bringing the out-of-season league into millions of mainstream mindsets and conversations;

--- NBC Sports and the Paris Summer Games want Caitlin more than she wants 15 days as an A-lister amid the draining crush of global media in The City of Light; and,

--- If the loud advocates continue to attempt to draw her into self-created fringe frays with their posturing, Caitlin may just go and find an alternative megamillions wintertime platform as the touring centerpiece of “A Celebration of The New American Inclusive.”

That's how high her pop-cultural celebrity remains.

SHE HAS HAD NO SIGNIFICANT BREAK from the bright heights of basketball since last October, when her Iowa Hawkeyes hosted Doug Bruno and DePaul in an exhibition game witnessed by a record 55,646 at Kinnick Stadium.

Her final season with the national second-place Hawkeyes was a grind. Her first seven weeks in the WNBA have been even more emotionally “grindier” (thank you Stephen Colbert).

She needs rest.

Thanks to the nearsightedness of Team USA selection chair Jen Rizzotti and her flame-throwing committee, Caitlin is a free woman without Paris.

Finally, she can have a few days to feel unfettered and alive.

Hasn't she earned it?

* * *

THE LAWRENCE TIMES IS an “independent online news publication” serving the two counties that encompass the University of Kansas.

Its core staff consists of five determined journalists who shade toward young, sharp and hungry.

It began operation in March 2021. Even in its own market, it's very much a David to the Goliath of the Lawrence Journal-World, a paper with a pedigree to 1858.

But for the past several weeks, The Times has “owned” coverage of legal matters involving Terrence Shannon Jr., the University of Illinois basketball star acquitted of rape.

That means The Times — and specifically reporter Andrea Albright — has consistently walloped every other covering entity.

THE WORK OF ALBRIGHT in The Times peaked this past week during the four-day trial of Shannon. The 23-year-old NBA draft prospect was found not guilty Thursday following 90 minutes of jury deliberation.

University of Illinois basketball standout Terrence Shannon Jr. testifies during his trial Thursday June 13, 2024, in Lawrence, Kan. Shannon, of Champaign, Ill., is accused of committing sexual assault on Sept. 9, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. (Chris Conde/The Lawrence Journal-World via AP) AP

Albright's nightly dispatches were must reading for anyone interested in the proceeding. They were thorough and fair as the incomplete methods of the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County (Kansas) District Attorney's office were shredded by Shannon's attorneys.

The most stunning thing reported by Albright came Tuesday. That was when she cited the fact that a player then on Bill Self's Kansas roster had been accused of the exact same thing Shannon was before Shannon was and that the player was in the same basement barroom as Shannon and his accuser on the overnight of Sept. 8-9 last summer.

The player was never interviewed or investigated by lead detective Joshua Leitner and the Lawrence PD regarding the incident. He was charged in a separate matter with rape at KU's basketball dormitory but those charges were later dropped due to “insufficient evidence.”

Self dumped the player — a transfer from Texas — before the Jayhawks season.

THE GOOD NAME OF SHANNON has been restored. The Lawrence Police Department and the office of district attorney Suzanne Valdez — who is up for reelection this year — look unprofessional at best.

As for Albright, her reporting was global-class.

As she says on the website of The Lawrence Times, “If there are secrets here, they are rarely well-kept.”

She proved that.

But how does Terrence Shannon Jr. get the nightmarish last six months of his life back?

Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Wednesday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

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