Like a lot of people across the country, Lucy Olsen found herself tuning into Iowa women’s basketball games during this past season.

She, too, was captivated by Caitlin Clark’s ball-handling and scoring ability, not to mention the joy-filled Hawkeyes.

“They were so fun to watch. Caitlin Clark was so amazing,” Olsen, the newest Iowa Hawkeye, said Wednesday night in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “… And I tried to learn from Caitlin. Every night, just trying to learn from her. I tried to pick up her change of pace and how she does it.”

And now Olsen is the latest player that still-buzzing Hawkeye fans can’t wait to watch next.

Villanova's Lucy Olsen shoots against Illinois' Makira Cook in the WBIT finals on April 3 in Indianapolis.

Olsen officially has accepted the appealing yet challenging task of succeeding Clark as the Hawkeyes’ primary point guard. The Villanova transfer gave her commitment to Iowa on Wednesday. She has one year of eligibility remaining … and a chance to leave her mark on a school that has reached the past two NCAA championship games.

“Caitlin Clark is Caitlin Clark. I’m not going to try to be her,” Olsen said. “But they need a point guard, and it’s a perfect opportunity to try to make something happen.”

When Olsen entered the NCAA transfer portal after her junior season, in which she averaged 23.3 points per game (third in Division I, behind Clark’s 31.6 and the 27.1 of USC’s JuJu Watkins), Iowa wasn’t necessarily on her radar. And she was pursued by women’s hoops heavyweights. LSU and Maryland were reportedly her other top choices.

But the very first call she received after entering the portal was from Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder. That got Olsen’s attention.

“Right away, I was like, ‘Oh, she seems awesome,’” Olsen said.

That Bluder was Olsen’s first call should speak volumes about how much of a priority this position was for the Hawkeyes.

And let’s not forget, recruiting behind Clark was complicated. The all-time Division I scoring leader had the option of returning for one more year of college eligibility and didn’t announce she was entering the WNBA Draft until the last day of February.

To that point, even though Bluder had a feeling Clark would be going pro with the Indiana Fever owning the No. 1 pick, communicating a clear plan to potential recruits was not really possible.

So once a prospect like Olsen entered the portal, Iowa had the clarity, desire and conviction to pursue a 2024-25 replacement at point guard. Abby Stamp, who coaches Iowa’s point guards, deserves a lot of credit for the groundwork she laid with Olsen and her family. Give SWARM Collective CEO Brad Heinrichs credit, too, for being well-positioned on the NIL front to help Iowa secure Olsen’s commitment.

After Bluder made an insant connection with Olsen on the phone, the entire coaching staff joined Olsen and her parents on a subsequent Zoom call.

Lucy Olsen produced solid numbers for Villanova (23.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists) despite her team playing a slow pace.

“They were just the nicest ever,” Olsen said. “And then when we got on campus for a visit, I was like, ‘Wow, this feels like family already.’ There was something about the culture they’ve built (that) felt so like home. That’s what sold me.”

There’s a funny story about Olsen’s visit.

Because the majority of the staff was in Brooklyn late into Monday night for the WNBA Draft – which saw Clark go No. 1 overall to the Fever and Kate Martin No. 18 to the Las Vegas Aces – they couldn’t fly back to Iowa until early Tuesday morning. That meant Bluder and assistants Jan Jensen and Raina Harmon maybe got one solid hour of sleep before heading home. And when they arrived in Iowa City, Olsen was already on campus.

“I don’t know how they stayed awake the whole day,” Olsen said. “I was tired from a day full of events, and they were on a plane that morning.”

Olsen got to visit Iowa’s facilities and spent time with the players and connected quickly with Sydney Affolter, who will also be a senior next season.

“She seems like a really fun person, from what I grasped, and a great player on the court,” Olsen said.

After a steakhouse dinner with the team in downtown Iowa City, Olsen was met with the reality of the Hawkeye women’s players being celebrities.

“After dinner, there were people outside wanting to get pictures with the team,” Olsen said. “It’s cool how inspiring they are.”

Olsen said she’s embracing the inevitable increase in exposure. Iowa rapidly sold out its season tickets for Clark’s senior year, and while it remains to be seen what sales will be like post-Clark, it would be no surprise to see 15,000 fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena for many games next season. Villanova’s typical home crowd was between 2,500 and 3,000.

Olsen’s commitment has certainly generated a lot of excitement among Hawkeye supporters, and it should. She was ESPN’s No. 5 overall prospect in the portal, and she clearly was Iowa’s top target overall. Players are excited, too. After the Olsen news broke, guard Taylor McCabe tweeted, “HAWKS ARE STILL HOT!!! Let’s gooooo.”

Olsen’s game film is impressive. The 2021 Miss Basketball in Pennsylvania is listed at 5-foot-9 but seems to play bigger than that. She has a good mid-range game and can create her own shot. She can score with either hand. Her ball-handling skills are impressive, and she could play as an off-guard as well.

She was more prolific from 3-point range as a sophomore (35.6%) than as a junior (29.4%), but that was in part because Villanova needed her to score this past season, so her shot volume went way up. Additionally, her 2-point percentages increased from 44.0% as a sophomore to 48.9% as a junior. That’s encouraging.

The Wildcats went 30-7 two years ago with Olsen being the No. 2 option (12.4 points per game) behind 6-2 post Maddy Siegrist (29.0 ppg). But behind Olsen’s 23.3 this past year, no Villanova player averaged more than 8.3 points per game. Statistically, she often had little help. Still, Villanova posted a 22-13 record and reached the finals of the WBIT (where it lost to Illinois, 71-57).

Over Olsen’s three years in Villanova, her teams averaged 25.3 wins. She has been a winner. That message came across loud and clear Wednesday night, when she was on the road again – from Pennsylvania to Springfield, Massachusetts. There, she’ll be one of 17 women’s players invited to a training camp to try out for Team USA’s 3-on-3 national team ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I just love to win,” she said.

Iowa lost a lot of firepower of its national runner-up team that went 34-5. Five seniors – Clark, Martin, Gabbie Marshall, Molly Davis and Sharon Goodman – have departed. Five freshmen and now Olsen are arriving to help contribute to a new era – the post-Clark era – of Iowa women’s basketball.

With Olsen joining players like McCabe, Affolter, second-team all-Big Ten forward Hannah Stuelke, Kylie Feuerbach, Addison O’Grady and more, it feels like the winning vibes can keep going in Iowa City.

Olsen will arrive in June with what she said will be a team-first mindset.

“Whatever coach needs me to do: scoring, assists, defense,” Olsen said. “Yeah, I’m there to win.”