Ava’s Angle: Why Caitlin Clark should be the unanimous National Player of the Year 


If it was not already clear in the regular season, Caitlin Clark’s thrilling performance in the NCAA March Madness Tournament should seal the deal for her National Player of the Year campaign. Although her numbers in the tournament will not count towards the NPOTY bid, she definitely capitalized on what she started during the regular season.  

Iowa came up one win short of being 2023 Women’s Basketball National Champions, but Clark led the Hawkeyes to an unforgettable run in the tournament that will go down in NCAA history. 

What makes Clark a standout is her natural athletic ability to compete in the game of basketball. She gained attention from Division I colleges before she even started high school, receiving her first letter of interest from Missouri State before seventh grade. Clark’s father, Brent Clark, shared that when she was younger, her parents could not find an AAU girls team for her to participate in. So, even with the complaints of parents, Clark played for the boy’s league and won her AAU state championship. 

Clark could have chosen to play basketball at any college she wanted. However, being from Des Moines, Iowa, committing to the University of Iowa on Nov. 12, 2019 was a fairly obvious choice as Clark is very family oriented and wanted to represent her home state. Other offers came from Iowa State, Notre Dame, Texas, Oregon, Oregon State, Duke, Florida and Drake.  

From high school to college, Clark has risen to be a national star. Specifically this season, she caught the attention of the entire country as she led Iowa to their first ever national championship appearance. Not only did she lead Iowa to making the run that they did in the tournament, she shattered records with her two straight 40-point games. Clark scored a total of 191 points over Iowa’s six games which is the most points scored in a single NCAA tournament ever between the men and women’s. She passed Glen Rice’s record with Michigan for 184 points in the 1989 Men’s NCAA Tournament.  

Clark completed a clean sweep of the NPOTY awards, being named the 2023 John R. Wooden Award winner, Naismith Trophy winner, Associated Press Player of the Year, Wade Trophy and USBWA National Player of the Year. She won these awards over Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Angel Reese (LSU), the reigning Wooden winner Aliyah Boston (South Carolina) and the nation’s leading scorer, Maddy Siegrist (Villanova). She also was named Big Ten Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team AP all-American.  

In the regular season, Clark averaged 27.8 points per game which was second in the nation behind Siegrist. She was the Division I leader with 8.6 assists per game and 7.1 rebounds per game. Clark had 25-plus points, five-plus assists and five plus rebounds 18 times this year which is an NCAA record. She is the only player in the country to have more than 950 points, 300 assists, 240 rebounds and 45 steals in a single campaign. Additionally, Clark is the first player in Division I women’s basketball history with more than 900 points and 300 assists in the same year. She is ranked top five nationally in at least 10 offensive categories which comes to no surprise to anyone. 

Her impressive stats only continued in the NCAA Tournament where she thrived scoring 41 points (15-of-31 on shooting) in a career-defining upset over defending champions, No. 1 seeded South Carolina in the Final Four. 

Clark’s performance in the NCAA Tournament validates her regular season statistics and only makes her more deserving of the National Player of the Year honor. Especially since she was highly considered for the award last season but fell short to Boston. The factor that makes Clark stand out from other opponents is her ability to light up all sides of the court. The junior guard often finds herself being double teamed and very pressured by opponents but in that case, she is always able to find her teammates. In the NCAA tournament, Clark was able to make key assists to her teammates cutting to the rim which allowed her to rack up on assists. 

“[Clark was] just ready to shoot at all times,” South Carolina senior guard Brea Beal said. “She was ready. She’s always on the go, always able to find her teammates. That’s what kind of made the game easier for her, opening everything up. She’s just a really well-rounded player.” 

With her dimensional skill set, Clark finished the Elite Eight round against Louisville with a triple double; she posted 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. She registered the first ever 40-point triple double in NCAA Tournament history.  

“Are you kidding? It’s mind boggling,” said head coach Lisa Bluder of Clark’s performance during the postgame press conference.  

Clark has elevated Iowa to a status that they have never been able to achieve before. While she could have played basketball anywhere in the country, she chose to stay home and play for Iowa which shows her true character. 

“I want my legacy to be the impact that I can have on young kids and the people in the state of Iowa,” said Clark in the post-game press conference after the loss to LSU. “I hope I brought them a lot of joy this season, I hope this team brought them a lot of joy. I understand that we came up one win short but I think we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate. I was just that young girl so all you have to do is dream and you can be in moments like this.” 

This was just the second time that Iowa has made the Final Four in history of the program and the first time they advanced to the championship game. Clark has started a legacy at Iowa and it’s not over yet. Sunday’s national championship game shattered records for women’s basketball and is paving the way for the game to be changed. ESPN announced that the game broadcasted on ABC averaged 9.9 million viewers making it the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball final in television history. Clark was a huge reason behind this substantial viewership. 

While Clark obviously would have wanted a championship ring on her finger, she is still a generational player that has stood out against all others this season. With all in consideration based on her regular season performance, Clark most definitely should be the unanimous National Player of the Year for the 2022-23 season. Wildey enough, her heroic NCAA tournament performances won’t even factor into the decision which proves how she is like no other on the court. 

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