Why Caitlin Clark Should Be National Player of the Year
It may seem early to be talking about the National Player of the Year, but there’s a player this season who keeps making her bid stronger with every game. That player is Iowa Hawkeye guard Caitlin Clark. Clark is a current junior at Iowa but has made an impact since her freshman year. During that season, she averaged 26.6 points per game. Last season she increased this average to 27.0 ppg, and this season she's at 27.1 points per game with still some to go. Averaging 7.9 rebounds and assists per game, Clark’s play is the reason Iowa is having the success we see right now.
Many call her “must-watch television” because you know that when Clark is on, she’s going to put on a show. Against Ohio State Jan. 23, Clark played for 40 minutes and recorded 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists. That marked her eighth career triple-double, and helped Iowa end Ohio State's undefeated run. With that triple-double, Clark became only the second player with a triple-double against an AP Top-2 opponent since 1999-2000. The other player is Dwyane Wade against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.
In Iowa's next game, Clark dropped 33 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists, just short of another triple-double. In the Hawkeyes’ game against Maryland on Feb. 2, Clark scored or assisted on 34 points in the first half. In contrast, Maryland as a team had 38 points to the Hawkeyes’ 52. With her 42 total points in the game, Clark had her second 40-plus point game this season against an AP Top-25 opponent. She is the only player in the country to have recorded two 40-plus point games against a ranked opponent twice this season. On Feb. 5, the Hawkeyes faced Penn State, and Clark picked up her ninth career triple-double and her third this season. This tied her for second overall, with Chastadie Barnes, in triple-doubles in NCAA women’s basketball history, only behind Sabrina Ionescu.
While Clark picks up a lot of the headlines for her threes, her assists can be just as impressive. In a similar manner to that we’ve seen of Sue Bird, Clark will lob the ball down the court to set up teammates, commonly Monika Czinano who is averaging 18.1 points this season. Czinano and Clark’s chemistry is a huge part of Iowa’s success as the offense runs through both teams. There’s always a player who just makes a team tick, and Clark is that for Iowa.
For example, in the Hawkeyes’ Feb. 2 game against Maryland, Clark, more than once, dished the ball off to a teammate even if she could’ve taken (and made) the shot from where she was. Despite her teammates not making every shot she gives them, her unselfishness in giving them the ball makes her a great team player.
And talking purely about numbers for a minute, Clark is one of five players to have recorded 100-plus points, 50-plus assists, and 25-plus rebounds across a four-game span in the NBA, WNBA, or Division I men’s or women’s basketball in the last 15 years. The list includes Clark, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic. She’s a part of one of the most elite lists of players as a junior in college.
And that’s not the only elite list she is a part of. She's included in a list of NBA, WNBA, Division I men’s and Division I women’s players that have recorded back-to-back 30-point triple-doubles since 2000. The list consists of legends Kobe Bryant, Westbrook, Harden, James, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and of course, Clark. There’s more, too. Her nine career triple-doubles are the most ever in Big Ten history. That’s male or female, and the Big Ten has made some pretty good basketball players. For a collegiate women's basketball player to be named alongside some of the best NBA players is quite an honor and shows the current growth of women's basketball. Clark is changing the game while drawing more and more eyes at the same time.
Numbers-wise, Clark is one of the best players in basketball right now, but the numbers don’t even show her true impact on the court. Clark is a dynamic player that is a natural leader for her team. Her chemistry with nearly every one of her teammates makes her even more special. Plus, her long-range ability for a pull-up three when it's most needed? Elite. Clark is simply that: an elite player.
She has proved to everyone that she is a “must-watch” on television and never fails to put on a show. One of the craziest parts of this all is that she still has another year at Iowa to break and set more records and put her current records out of reach. With nine triple-doubles already in her career and more pending, she is bound to set the Big Ten record for triple-doubles in a career far out of reach for anyone following.
You can watch Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes next as they take on No. 2 Indiana on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network. The Indiana Hoosiers are currently atop of the Big Ten standings but the Hawkeyes are close behind in second. This matchup will be one that could determine the ultimate winner of the Big Ten conference with only six games to go.