By John Bohnenkamp
The Big Ten women’s basketball player of the year award never seems to leave Iowa these days.
Caitlin Clark picked up the honor on Tuesday, becoming the Hawkeyes’ fourth winner in the last five seasons.
Center Megan Gustafson won it in 2018 and 2019. Guard Kathleen Doyle won it in 2020.
And now it is Clark’s turn, the first of what figures to be plenty of postseason awards coming to the sophomore guard.
That, coach Lisa Bluder said, is something important for the program, which won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title on Sunday.
“It means so much because in recruiting you can say, ‘Look, you come here and you know the development of our players — the success of our players, the recognition, not only regionally but nationally with our conference almost now, is so good,’” Bluder said. “And so it’s hard to convince somebody if it’s never done before, right? But once it’s been done over and over again, it gets a little bit easier for recruits to see it as a possibility for themselves. So I think it means a lot for our program.”
“I think it’s pretty outstanding and cool to say that it’s kind of resided here in Iowa City four of the last five years,” Clark said. “I think that speaks to these coaches and kind of what they’ve built here and how they develop talent. And it’s not just at one position, it’s at multiple positions. So I think that’s pretty cool as well.”
What makes the run interesting is the different styles of play of each of the three players. Gustafson was a dominant post presence, while Bluder said Clark and Doyle, both point guards, have different strengths to their games.
“What ties them, what makes them the same, is their work ethic, their confidence, their belief in themselves, how great of a teammate they are,” Bluder said. “Those are all things that kind of really are similarities between the women.”
Clark, named player of the year by the coaches and the media, averaged 27.5 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game in 27 games. She had 17 games of 20 or more points, including 10 games of 30 or more. She has 1,542 career points, becoming the fastest NCAA Division I player, men’s or women’s, to reach 1,500 career points over the last 20 seasons.
Clark leads the nation in assists (225), total points (743), assists per game (8.3), points per game (27.5), and triple doubles (5).
Clark was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection. She was joined on the first team by teammate Monika Czinano. Forward McKenna Warnock was a second-team pick.
It was the third all-conference honor for Czinano.
“It was just so fun to kind of add that layer on top of what already is a great season,” Czinano said.
Czinano averaged 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds this season. She ranks third in the nation in field-goal percentage (.669) and fifth in field goals made (228).
Warnock averaged 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds this season.
Photo: Iowa guard Caitlin Clark was named the Big Ten’s women’s basketball player of the year on Tuesday. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)