High-scoring Caitlin Clark fitting right in with Iowa women
| January 14, 2021 10:06 AM
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Caitlin Clark's performances are challenging her coach’s vocabulary.
The Iowa guard is third in the nation in scoring, and first among freshmen, at 25.7 points per game. She's been named Big Ten player of the week three times and conference freshman of the week six times — the one week she didn’t win the honor was the week the Hawkeyes didn’t play.
“I think, in her four-year career, I’m going to run out of adjectives to describe her," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Clark replaced 2020 Big Ten player of the year Kathleen Doyle, and teammates said she's provided the same energy Doyle did last season as Iowa contended for the regular-season title until the final week.
“I do think with this team at this time, Caitlin is kind of what we needed,” center Monika Czinano said. “Things are really moving and really flowing well. I think Kathleen had that edge there, and we knew what we were losing and what we were bringing in. Having that edge is something the team is used to.”
Clark has had four games with 30 or more points, topped by a 37-point night against Minnesota on Jan. 6, but she's more than a scorer. She also leads the Big Ten with 6.4 assists per game for the Hawkeyes (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten).
“We definitely needed a point guard and a leader to step up right away after Doyle had left,” forward McKenna Warnock said. “And I think she’s done a great job of that.”
Clark came from West Des Moines Dowling High as a five-star recruit and rated No. 4 nationally by ESPN. She won gold medals with Team USA at the 2017 U16 FIBA Americas Tournament and 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup.
“I think we all, right off the bat, realized how good she was,” Warnock said. “I think we all just embraced her and trusted in her. And she trusts us.”
Clark has struggled with her shot at times but has contributed in other ways. She was just 3 of 15 from the field and scored 13 points in the Dec. 22 win over Western Illinois but added 13 rebounds and 10 assists. She had a season-low eight points in the Jan. 9 loss at Northwestern but had eight assists.
She said she took a day off after going 3 for 12 and fouling out in the Northwestern game.
“Sometimes you just have those nights," she said. "It’s just a confidence thing. Get back in the gym and shoot.”
Clark has shown she's not averse to hard work. She also has shown a fun-loving side.
“Caitlin doesn’t act like a prima donna off the court,” Bluder said. “She’s a goof. She’s one of the goofiest kids we have. She’s somebody that likes to give a lot of talk, and then it’s fun to give it back to her, because she can take it. She’s not scared to laugh at herself. She’s really fun to tease.”
Clark said she likes to keep things light.
“Sometimes you can’t take everything so seriously,” she said. "You’ve just got to be able to laugh it off. I think it’s good if you’re able to laugh at yourself.”
Bluder said Clark is nowhere near a finished product. The coach said there are “warts” on her game. For example, Clark's average of 4.8 turnovers per game is second-worst in the Big Ten.
“There are still learning moments, obviously,” Clark said. “And that’s how it will be all yearlong. I’m still learning a lot about the college game and what that brings.”
Bluder appreciates Clark's drive to get better.
“She’s worked hard on her shot,” Bluder said. “She works hard on her offensive skills. When somebody works harder for something, it’s hard to be jealous of that when they are putting that kind of work in the gym.”