With visa issue solved, rookie Nika Muhl has fun with Storm debut

May 23, 2024, 10:10 AM | Updated: 10:18 am

Seattle Storm Nika Muhl Caitlin Clark...

Nika Muhl of the Seattle Storm and Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever on May 22, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — Once it became clear that visa issues for Nika Muhl were resolved and she would finally be able to make her WNBA debut, the rookie for the Seattle Storm wanted to have a little fun.

Caitlin Clark fuels ‘incredible’ night in first game vs Seattle Storm

With the help of her dad — a graphic designer — and some outfit advice from her mom, she poked fun at the situation surrounding the delay to her first game, showing up at the arena wearing a T-shirt with “Approved” written over a picture of herself.

“I saw people being mad and I saw so many things online and I was just like, I want to make something funny out of this,” Nika Muhl said. “I want to make people laugh.”

Muhl finally moved from being a spectator to on the court for the Storm, getting a short but memorable stint during Seattle’s 85-83 win over Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night.

WNBA Draft: Seattle Storm take Nika Muhl in second round

She played all of 2 minutes and 39 seconds, but when she entered late in the third quarter it may have been the loudest ovation from franchise-record crowd of 18,343. She missed the only shot she took, grabbed two rebounds and watched Clark hit a step-back 3 over her moments after checking in.

“I’m just so blessed to be part of this and I’m forever grateful,” Muhl said after the game. “I’m probably going to go home now and I won’t be able to sleep, and just think about this day and everything that happened.”

The visa issues for Muhl — a native of Croatia — came to light just before Seattle’s season opener against Minnesota on May 14. She missed that game and all three games of Seattle’s road trip.

She said there was a lot of paperwork involved and that the process of waiting for the final approvals became frustrating at times. She also had to make a quick trip to Vancouver, British Columbia so she could then re-enter the United States on her approved work visa.

“It felt like I was injured and couldn’t play. It reminded me of those times,” she said. “But honestly, I feel like it was needed for me in a way because I had to put it in like a positive mindset. And my teammates and my coaches, and everybody in the program helped me put it in a positive mindset.”

Caitlin Clark, other rookies already huge for WNBA attendance, ratings

Muhl was the No. 14 overall pick in the second round of the WNBA draft after a stellar career at UConn. Already an elite defender, her profile took a major leap after she flustered Clark in the national semifinal between UConn and Iowa. Clark finished with 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting in Iowa’s 71-69 win, but was hounded all game by Muhl.

Not surprisingly, it was Muhl chasing Clark around the floor in Seattle for her brief debut.

“I’m very happy with the fact that I got to play my first game against her,” Muhl said. “I love Caitlin. We had a lot of fun at the draft together. To get to meet all those people outside of the games, you hate everybody on the floor, you want to compete, but outside we’re all good friends and we support each other.”

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