Even After Losing in the Title Game, Caitlin Clark’s Legacy Is Unquestionable

This was supposed to be Caitlin Clark’s final game as an Iowa Hawkeye, win or lose.

Prior to Iowa’s matchup with South Carolina Gamecocks in Sunday’s women’s national championship game, Clark fielded numerous questions concerning her legacy. She claimed that, in the end, having a championship did not necessarily guarantee her status as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. She wanted her four years in Iowa City to be remembered for the people she inspired and the way she carried herself, not just for a few games.

It didn’t mean she wasn’t interested in winning.

“These are incredibly difficult to win. I think I probably know that better than most people by now,” Clark remarked following Sunday’s 87-75 Hawkeye defeat to the Gamecocks. It certainly stings to be so close twice, but we were there all along. We fought each other. To get back to this position, we had to defeat some extremely outstanding teams. It’s an extremely difficult task to complete.

It appeared as though Clark would win the title in the first quarter. Eleven of her eighteen points came in less than a minute. Clark was determined to leave her mark on this game and not let it end.

But even before tipoff, she had left her imprint. This weekend, thousands of Iowa supporters traveled to Cleveland, helping to fill the stands with No. 22 jerseys and causing sellouts on both game days. The crowd was unbelievably loud every time Clark touched the ball—I’m talking about the kind of noisy that makes you think your ears are bleeding when 18,000 people shout simultaneously indoors during one of Clark’s trademark threes.

Clark appeared more grateful than defeated, despite having just lost in the national championship game for the second year in a row. And because she has been in the public eye for the past year in an unprecedented fashion, her maturity has been crucial to the way she has conducted herself in several interviews as well as on the court.

Jan Jensen, the associate head coach at Iowa, stated, “I think Caitlin Clark handled the pressure and weight so much, so much, so much better than I think she got credit for, and she gets credit for a lot.” “I don’t use social media much, but I feel like I lost my cool a few times when people would be really critical of her—I didn’t think she was that good, and she didn’t have a national title, but that kid was amazing every night,” the author said. I doubt that she will be replaced for a very long time.

Clark hasn’t always been good at controlling those feelings, according to Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “All fire and no love” was the Hawkeye way of life when she initially joined. She would let her perfectionism get in the way, and she didn’t always transmit her fire well to her teammates. She became a leader by learning to regulate her passion, which helped her team win consecutive championships.

The ability to simply not be alarmed by things that don’t go your way is, in my opinion, the largest way Clark has evolved and grown over the course of the past four years. “The game of basketball isn’t flawless. That’s the course of events. To be honest, I’m most proud of that.

Clark rewrote a number of records this year, even though he wasn’t faultless. With 3,951 points, she became the highest scoring player in Division I basketball history, regardless of gender. With 1,144 assists, she is the only female player in Division I history to have both more than 3,000 points and 1,000 assists. In addition to setting single-season D-I records with her 548 three-pointers, she has scored 1,234 points and made 201 threes this season.

It’s time to erase those records in preparation for Clark’s next move in his career, now that the ink has finally dried on them. Although her point total from college may not be significant in the professional ranks, many in the WNBA are hopeful she can bring eyeballs to the tube: As Iowa advanced in the tournament, ESPN consistently set records for viewership in consecutive games. One factor that may contribute to that is the short wait until fans may see Clark play again.

For women’s basketball players, the transition from college to the pros is exceptionally fast, in contrast to many other leagues. Clark participated in the April 7 championship game. April 15 is the WNBA draft, where she is expected to be selected first overall by the Indiana Fever. The regular season begins on May 14 while training camps begin on April 28. Clark was invited to USA Basketball’s Olympic training camp from April 3–5, so let’s not forget about a potential mid-summer trip to Paris (though she was a little busy during that time).

Following Iowa’s upset of UConn in the Final Four, Diana Taurasi, a Mercury Phoenix veteran, issued a pretty direct warning to Clark about what lies ahead in the professional ranks. “Reality will soon set in…You’re going to play alongside some mature ladies who have been playing professional basketball for a long time, even though you appear really human playing against 18-year-olds, Taurasi stated on ESPN. “I’m not saying that won’t work; the thing about being good at something is that you just get better at it.” However, as a novice, you will need to extend yourself some grace during this transitional phase.

Bluder in particular, Iowa supporters probably aren’t ready for this phase to finish. Is she able to change her mind now? “Is that feasible?” the coach made a jest. “I’m not sure. That would be really nice to have. And whatever your personal opinion of her, there’s no denying her influence on the game. “I believe that the greatest influence was that many individuals—young and old, men and women—were motivated,” Jensen remarked. There are probably also some dogs and cats out there. You never know. I think I’ve seen dogs wearing tiny Caitlin [No. 22] jerseys.

However, for the time being at least, Caitlin Clark’s college career is now history—a history that will undoubtedly be discussed for many years to come. Fortunately for us, the follow-up will start in just a week.

Written by schooleiwa

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