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Dawn Staley: ‘People think I hate on Caitlin Clark. I don’t.’

Dawn Staley doesn't "hate on" Caitlin Clark. She just wants to spread the love. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Dawn Staley doesn’t hate Caitlin Clark.

The South Carolina women’s basketball coach wants to make that clear. Yes, she has lobbied for her own star player, Gamecocks senior Aliyah Boston, as a Player of the Year candidate. But no, she doesn’t begrudge Clark the attention she has received on the national stage.

She just wants to make room for more players on that stage with the Iowa star, Staley told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks on Monday.

“People think I hate on Caitlin. I don’t,” Staley said.

In fact, Clark likely will win her third straight Dawn Staley Award as the best guard in Division I women’s basketball, Staley acknowledged.

But as the coach of the No. 1 overall team in the NCAA Tournament, and as a major presence in the women’s college basketball media landscape, Staley is aware of the overpowering narratives that can grip the sport. One of those narratives this season has been Clark’s arrival as a superstar.

Yet while Staley agrees in Clark’s Player of the Year credentials, she sees other players who belong in the same conversation.

“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.”

And in bringing more players and teams into the spotlight, the players who find themselves enmeshed in the national media narratives — including the Hawkeyes’ Clark — will benefit from the shared attention.

“We start hating on that chosen one,” Staley said. “And we shouldn’t do that… There is room. We need to respect the whole spectrum of people that make the game great.”