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Caitlin Clark on Iowa future: ‘I’m just going to trust my gut’
Caitlin Clark averaged just shy of 28 points last season as she led the Hawkeyes to their first Final Four in 30 years. (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Caitlin Clark on Iowa future: ‘I’m just going to trust my gut’

IOWA CITY, Iowa (BVM) – Over the past few years, Caitlin Clark has become one of the faces of women’s college basketball. A former McDonald’s All-American at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, Clark chose to stay home for college, and has become a superstar with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Clark burst onto the scene in her first year in Iowa City when she averaged 26.6 points and shot over 40% from 3-point range to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. As a sophomore, she only got better, becoming the Big Ten Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-American.

That set the stage for a junior season to remember in which Clark averaged 27.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists as the Naismith College Player of the Year, the AP National Player of the Year and the John R. Wooden Award winner. 

Perhaps more importantly, she helped lead the Hawkeyes to the Final Four for the first time since 1993 where they knocked off undefeated South Carolina to reach the national championship game.

Entering the 2023-24 season, expectations are sky high for the Hawkeyes as Clark returns for her fourth year. Speaking at Iowa women’s basketball media day, Clark acknowledged that this year’s team will certainly be different from last year, but still holds plenty of potential.

“I think that the biggest thing is getting the group to understand we don’t have to be exactly who we were last year,” Clark said on Wednesday. “This is a new team, new players that are going to have new roles … You can’t expect it to be similar to last year. You don’t want it to be. You want it to be different. You want it to be different for this group. Every journey is different.

“I think the biggest thing is getting this team to understand that we need to be different. We’re going to be different. We don’t have to be anything that we were last year, but we can still be a really, really successful basketball team.”

While the team is different, Clark’s game will not change. She wants to be better defensively, shoot better coming off of screens, cut down on turnovers and become more of a leader, but her presence as arguably the most lethal shooting threat in the entire country will remain key.

“I think honestly just trying to be the same player that I was last year,” Clark said when asked about her role for 2023-24. “Obviously we kind of know I thrive in transition offense. That’s where I like to score, that’s where I like to get the ball, and that’s hard for the defense to guard you and pick you up there.”

While the 2023-24 season is the main focus, questions about Clark’s future beyond this season remain. The senior guard will have the option to play a fifth year of college basketball after this season, or she could decide to jump to the WNBA. Right now, Clark’s future as a Hawkeye beyond this spring remains up in the air.

“I think the biggest thing is I’m just going to trust my gut,” Clark said about her future. “I’m not going to do research on what’s better and all this stuff and find data. I’m just going to trust my gut and go with that.

“I think that’s the most telling thing, and that was the most telling thing for me in my recruiting process. I know there was a lot of really good options, but in my heart I wanted to be here and that’s why I selected this place. I think it’s going to be the same when I make the decision to stay here or leave.

“But I feel like it’s not something that I think about every single day. It’s not something that I let weigh on me. It’s like I’m focused on helping this team be the best team they can be, and when I know that decision, all of you will know.”

No matter what Clark decides, she knows this season is poised to be a special one. Not only could Iowa make a run at a national championship, but Clark is only about 800 points from breaking the all-time women’s college basketball career scoring record held by Kelsey Plum.

“I knew I was probably going to have a chance to break it, but it’s not something I’m going to be, like, actively seeking out,” Clark said. “But I think if I just continue to be the player I am and do the things I’ve always done, that will come.”

Even after becoming the best player in women’s college basketball last season, and an offseason full of fame, Clark remains motivated, and plans to build off of last year’s success this winter while handling the high expectations that Iowa has.

“I think it’s just kind of how I am,” Clark said. I hate not being in the gym. If I am not there one day, it kills me … It’s just kind of second nature to me. It’s a calming thing. It’s something that I’m just comfortable doing, but that’s also where my confidence stems from.

“You welcome it. You enjoy it. At the end of the day, you understand, like, this is special. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t run away from it. Just enjoy it and soak it in, because no other Iowa women’s basketball team in history has had an opportunity to be in an environment like this.”

While Clark has undoubtedly become one of the biggest celebrities in Iowa, she continues to have an impact on women’s basketball across the country, and has inspired a new generation of young players. 

No matter what happens this season, or what she decides to do beyond 2024, Clark relishes the chance to change the game, and will undoubtedly continue doing so in the future.

“If I have to be the face of women’s basketball or women’s college basketball, I think that’s a really good thing,” Clark said. “I think that’s cool. I think it’s something that’s only going to help the game grow more. It’s not anything that I feel comes with a lot of pressure.

“I think it’s just this has come because of the way you’ve played basketball and the way you’ve carried yourself, so just continue to be you. I think that’s the coolest thing.”