Sports

Caitlin Clark of Iowa is the AP Player of the Year in women's hoops for the 2nd straight season

CLEVELAND — (AP) — Caitlin Clark is capping her illustrious college career with another record-breaking season and another set of prestigious awards.

The star guard from Iowa was honored Thursday as The Associated Press Player of the Year in women's basketball for the second consecutive year.

Clark received 34 votes from the 35-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Cameron Brink of Stanford received the other vote. Voting was done before March Madness began.

The 22-year-old Clark is the sixth player to win the award more than once and fifth to do it in consecutive seasons. She joined Chamique Holdsclaw, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart as multi-time winners.

“This is a tremendous honor to be on the same list as a lot of great players that I grew up idolizing,” Clark said. “I grew up as a young kid watching them and wanting to be like them.”

The NCAA Division I career scoring leader set numerous records while helping Iowa reach the Final Four for a second consecutive season. A semifinal matchup with UConn awaits on Friday night in Cleveland.

Clark's play with her logo-depth 3-pointers and dazzling passes has captured the hearts of fans who showed up by the thousands wearing her No. 22 jersey whether Iowa was at home or on the road all season.

One of those players she inspired was Love Johnson, a standout player on her Cleveland middle school basketball team. Johnson and her coach Shawn Cox were on stage with Clark when she was presented the award.

“If we're at home or on the road the arena is screaming, there's young boys, there's young girls that you know are inspired," Clark said. "Whether you win or lose, no matter how many points you score, at the end of the day that doesn't really matter. It's the people that you're inspiring. I think that's been the coolest part of my journey.”

Opposing coaches, including AP Coach of the Year Dawn Staley, have called Clark a generational talent and tried to stifle her creativity and scoring, but she averaged 31.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists during the regular season to help Iowa go 29-4 and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Her games have become appointment viewing for millions — the Elite Eight rematch with LSU earlier this week was seen by more than 12 million, a record for a women's college basketball game — and raised the profile of the sport even higher as it enjoys a surge in popularity. She is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft later this month, a slot held by the Indiana Fever.

Clark has been quick to credit her teammates and coach, and note that the women's game had stars like Lynette Woodard and Pearl Moore and many others long before she started dazzling fans in an era where games are easily found on TV every season.

Her college career will be come to an end this weekend and it has been quite a ride for the West Des Moines native.

“I feel like I’ve talked about her, like used every word imaginable to describe her,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court.”

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness


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