By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
MINNEAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark is selective about what name-image-likeness deals she makes.
But there was no way the Iowa junior guard was going to pass up a deal with Nike.
Clark was one of five players from high school and college to receive NIL deals from the company, which were announced on Monday.
“I got pretty selective with who I work with,” Clark said at Big Ten basketball media days on Tuesday. “But that’s just a no-brainer for just about anyone in the world. They’re one of the best brands, and obviously a brand that is so prevalent in basketball. I was kind of shocked at first, like, ‘Oh, my God, Nike…’ It’s super-cool, but I’m blessed to have the opportunity.”
Clark led the nation in scoring (27 points per game) and assists (8 per game) last season. Her on-court game and off-court personality — Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said on Tuesday that Clark is a “goofball” — has made her a prime target for NIL opportunities.
“Number one, it’s her skill,” Bluder said. “If you’re not good, nobody cares about you. … I think she’s one of the most exciting players in America. When you can shoot the ball from the range she shoots it from, and get to the rim, and lead the country and points and assists, I think she is one of the most exciting players to watch.
“Plus, she kind of has this wholesomeness — this Iowa, Midwest girl wholesomeness that people are looking for.”
But Clark is able to sift through the offers with help from her father, mother, and other family members.
“Caitlin has her own team that really helps her, kind of a family network,” Bluder said. “They all have expertise in different areas, whether that’s being a lawyer or being in marketing. So they take care of that for all of her. So all she has to do is show up and do her thing and leave. She doesn’t have to worry about anything.
“When you can trust people who are setting those things up for you, that really helps. You know they aren’t going to give you any bad deals or make you look bad. You don’t have to worry about contracts or stuff, because they’re taking care of things for you. She’s got a really great situation in which she can just be (herself).”
“It’s basically all in the family. I come from a big Italian family, so everybody’s involved in everything,” Clark said.
Clark also signed a trading card deal with Topps in the summer.
“I’ve had a lot of reactions from, I don’t want to say older people, but people who really collected back in the day,” Clark said. “I was one who collected baseball cards, football cards. My older brother did it, so I wanted to do it.
“Topps is a huge company, one of the biggest names in that industry, so that was super-cool as well.”
Other Iowa women’s basketball players, like center Monika Czinano, have signed NIL deals as well.
“I think it’s just kind of what you make it,” Czinano said. “It’s kind of like a free-for-all — take what’s there.”
“I think the coolest thing I’ve seen, especially at the University of Iowa, is so many athletes use it in such a great way, whether they’re giving back to their communities or giving to charity, or hosting camps for little kids,” Clark said. “Like Monika said, it is what you make it. I think there’s so many things that have come from it.”
TAKING OVER FOR STRINGER: New Rutgers coach Coquese Washington said there won’t be much of a difference within the Scarlet Knights as she replaces long-time coach C. Vivian Stringer.
Washington, though, is promising a higher tempo on offense.
“Coach Stringer was known for great defense and low-scoring games,” she said. “I kind of like to score a few more points, so the pace may be a little bit different. The styles may be a little bit different.”
Stringer, who coached at Iowa from 1983-95 before moving to Rutgers, retired in April.
“Well, I think one thing that I always admired and respected about Coach Stringer was as much what she did off the court as she did on the court, how she cared for her players, how she challenged and nurtured and grew her players,” said Washington, who has coached in the Big Ten before at Penn State. “A Rutgers women’s basketball team will still be reflective of that even though there’s been a change of leadership.”
RUNNING THE ILLINI: New Illinois coach Shauna Green knows she has work to do, taking over a program that won one Big Ten game last season and seven overall.
The rebuilding, she said, will require patience.
“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself,” said Green, a Clinton, Iowa native who came to Illinois after being the head coach at Dayton. “You’ve got to really stay present and try to just get better in those moments. Right now, we’re just really trying to learn how to win, teach them how to win, have winning ways, what the standard of excellence looks like day by day, again, possession by possession.
“Progress … I’ve said it at my press conference, I’ll say it again. We’ll be good when we’re good. As long as we’re continuing to get better day by day, drill by drill, then the outcome takes care of itself. So we’re very process-driven in our mindset.”
Photo: Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (center) answers a question as teammates Kate Martin (left) and Monika Czinano listen during Tuesday’s Big Ten basketball media days.