PISCATAWAY, NJ – In the final minutes of the University of Iowa’s 87-78 win over Rutgers on Thursday, Caitlin Clark displayed basketball skills that drew Steph Curry and Sue Bird comparisons to Kevin Durant.
Clark, the 6-foot-tall second-year point guard from West Des Moines, expended a 3-foot 35-foot pointer to propel his team to 6th. -footer. On defense, she made her fifth steal of the night with Rutgers final possession, fouled and made two free throws to secure victory.
She finished with 32 points9 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals, scoring 16 points in the fourth round.
In games like that, says Clark, things get slower for her, and she can make the game easier for her teammates — and virtually impossible for her opponents. .
“Sometimes I play too fast in a way,” Clark, 20, said after the game. She added, “I think I can almost see the game being one step ahead, and that’s what sets me apart and really helps me get where I am in the ring and know what I need. what must you do.”
Clark’s numbers this season have made her a contender for the national female player of the year title. Aliyah Boston, a junior forward at South Carolina No. 1 who is averaging 16.8 points and 11.9 rebounds through Saturday, seems to be her main opponent.
Heading into Sunday afternoon’s game against Michigan, Iowa has a 19-7 and 13-4 aggregate aggregate score in the Big Ten, and heads for deep runs in the upcoming NCAA and conference tournaments. Last year, Iowa was knocked out by Connecticut in the round of 16, led by Paige Bueckers, the 2021 player of the year.
Going into Sunday, Clark has had five trebles this season and is the first player in Division I history, men’s or women’s, to hit a 30-point triple in a row. She leads Division I in points and support, and is on track to become the first woman to lead the country in both categories at that level. Trae Young, in the 2017-18 season, was the only men’s basketball player to do so. Clark averaged close to a triple-double with 27.1 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45% farther and 30% more when trying for 3 points.
“She is helping us in so many ways, scoring, assisting, recovering, and so for me she just impacts the game more because of the position she plays,” Coach Iowa member Lisa Bluder said.
Clark’s vision and speed on the field also benefited her teammates, like 6-foot-4-meter Monika Czinano, who had 23 points the night before Rutgers on multiple wide shots as Clark crossed the line. defense.
“Yes, there were even some passes tonight without a defender following me,” Czinano said with a grin. “That is the highest shot rate of all basketball. There is nothing better than that.”
“I think she sees the game as two or three passes ahead, and I think it’s a tribute to her understanding the game,” said Rutgers assistant coach Nadine Domond, who played the role. majored in Iowa in the 1990s and was a first-round draft player for WNBA’s Liberty. Domond watched Clark play during the summer ring in high school and thought she was “female Pete Maravich” because she had seen the plays unfold “before they even started.”
Clark’s highlights were popular on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” but her game was gaining attention long before that. Durant, the Nets forward, first saw Clark compete in the Amateur Athletic League women’s national championship in Chicago the summer before Clark’s senior year of high school. “She always has the ball in her hand, everyone plays her, she commands the whole game,” he said this month on his podcast, “ETCs.”
Durant added, “It seems like everyone on that field is slower than her, when she gets her stuff.”
Clark said she texts with Durant “quite a lot” about life on and off the basketball court. “He’s not only a really big fan of mine but a huge fan of the girls’ game, and that’s what you want to see,” she said. “He’s been a huge supporter, so I have a lot of respect for him.”
Clark, the youngest of three children, was raised in a family of athletes. Eleven members of her extended family have played college sports, including her father, Brent, who plays baseball and basketball at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and her brother Blake, who plays football in the State of Iowa.
Growing up, she played soccer and basketball with Blake and her other brother, Colin. She is the only girl on the all-boys youth basketball team.
“I grew up with two older brothers, I grew up with a bunch of male cousins, so I just got pushed around and I really think that’s what made me who I am today,” she said. . “I just had to compete with bigger, stronger, faster guys.”
She added, “I’m super competitive, and I cry every time I lose.”
At Dowling Catholic High School, Clark was named Gatorade Iowa Girls Basketball Player of the Year after her middle school season. She set two state records for her high school team size, scoring 60 in a single game and scoring 13 triples in another.
But despite her national reputation, Clark decided to stay in college, in large part because she wanted to be close to home. Bluder and her top assistant, Jan Jensen, worked tirelessly to get her, with Jensen regularly making the 90-minute to 6 a.m. trip to the open gym at Dowling Catholic and also went to Bangkok to see Clark win a gold medal with the age group USA Basketball team.
Isaac Prewitt, Iowa’s team manager, heals Clark and her teammates every day in practice and says nothing she does in a game has surprised him. He recalls a scenario last fall when Clark and the first team players played against the training team and were 11 points behind with 50 seconds remaining.
“She hit six three-second balls from the logo and some missed one leg,” he said. “It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, period, at any level of basketball.”
In court, Prewitt said that Clark was also happy to take the time.
“If we were all hanging out in the yard at someone’s house or apartment, she was always the one trying to make everyone have a good time and making jokes and having fun with whoever was there. literally,” he said.
Clark’s shot has inspired comparisons with NBA stars like Curry, Young and Damian Lillard. Bluder says those comparisons are flattering but she also wants to see herself compared to female tennis players.
“There are a lot of good women in our game that we can compare to her, Sabrina Ionescu and Sue Bird, and those are the people that I want to compare her with as well,” Bluder said.
Clark, a sophomore, said her dream is to play in the WNBA, but she won’t qualify until 2023, when she hits the league’s minimum age of 22 (In the NBA , which is 19)
Although she admits she “didn’t have a choice” about possibly leaving school early, she was able to reap some benefits from her achievements while there. In October, her parents negotiated her endorsement deal with supermarket chain Hy-Vee, making her the company’s first college athletics partner under a new NCAA policy that allows athletes university incentives to hold their own brand deals and partnerships. She has joined NFL players Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Kirk Cousins as a brand advocate.
For now, Clark said she’s very happy to be in Iowa. “I’m super excited and I think this offense and this culture is just too perfect for me and perfect for my game,” she said. “And obviously we want to win more games so I have no reason to leave here.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/27/sports/ncaabasketball/caitlin-clark-iowa.html Caitlin Clark is accumulating points and records at her own (fast) pace