By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
The first major national player of the year award belongs to Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.
Clark was named the winner of the Naismith Trophy on Wednesday, given to the top women’s basketball player in the nation by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
“It’s been a long journey but a super fun one,” Clark said during the ceremony in Dallas, Texas.
Clark was joined by her teammates at the ceremony. The Hawkeyes play South Carolina in Friday’s NCAA Final Four semifinals.
“When I was (at the Naismith ceremony) in Minnesota last year, my goal was to be here with my team,” Clark said, pointing at her teammates who were at the ceremony. “That’s the most important thing to me — to be at the Final Four with my team. And I know this award is impossible without every single one of you back there and I truly mean that. So it’s just as much yours as it is mine.”
Clark is the second Hawkeye to win the award, joining Megan Gustafson, who won in 2019.
Clark was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, as well as The Athletic National Player of the Year. She was a unanimous first-team All-American by the Associated Press. Clark is also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, Ann Meyers Drysdale, Dawn Staley and Nancy Lieberman national awards.
Clark’s season is one of impressive numbers — 984 points, 311 assists, 262 rebounds, 127 three-pointers, 56 steals and 20 blocks in leading the Hawkeyes to a historic season. She is the first Division I women’s basketball player to record more than 900 points and 300 assists in the same season.
Clark leads the nation’s best offense, averaging 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. She accounts for 57 percent of Iowa’s offensive output in points and assists. She leads the nation in assists per game (8.6), three-pointers made (127), and triple-doubles (5). She has scored 30 or more points in 12 games, including three 40-point games.
In Iowa’s four NCAA Tournament games, Clark is averaging 30 points, 11 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 three-pointers and 2.5 steals.
Photo: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark pumps up the crowd during the Big Ten Tournament championship game. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)