Iowa guard Caitlin Clark sits firmly at the front of the race for national Player of the Year awards, and for good reason.
Clark has had a year to remember for the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes en route to Friday’s Sweet 16 meeting with No. 6 seed Colorado. She is averaging 26.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 8.6 assists per game this season, which makes her the only player in the country average more than 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game.
Yet the star junior agrees with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley’s assessment of the Player of the Year debate: She wants to see more of it, not less, even if that leaves room for other players to knock her from the top spot.
“I think Dawn Staley said it really well… We need these conversations for our game. That’s what grows it,” Clark said. “It shouldn’t just be one person, end all, be all. There should be conversations. Because that’s what makes the game grow.”
Staley shared a similar sentiment with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks earlier this week.
Just because Staley lobbies for her own player, Gamecocks senior Aliyah Boston, “people think I hate on Caitlin,” the coach told Rooks. “I don’t.”
Rather, the coach just wants to see other deserving players involved in the Player of the Year conversation as well.
“Caitlin Clark, does she deserve it? Absolutely. Does Aliyah Boston deserve it? Does Cameron Brink deserve it? Absolutely,” Staley said. “There are so many people who are deserving of it, so let’s tell all the stories. Let’s not just be one-sided.”
Clark concurred in speaking with reporters Thursday, noting that “the debate is really good for women’s basketball.”
“You see it on men’s side all the time,” she said. “You never know who is going to win Player of the Year. So more than anything I think it’s really good for our game.”
But while the Player of the Year debate might be fun, and might be good for the game, the Iowa guard wants to keep her focus on the court as her team prepares for the Sweet 16.
“I’m focused on winning games,” she said.