Caitlin Clark brings newfound experience to Iowa women’s basketball

Hawkeye women’s basketball sophomore Caitlin Clark spent a month with USA Basketball this summer, earning a gold medal with the U19 team.


Casey Stone

Caitlin Clark runs the ball down the court during the Iowa Hawkeyes Women’s Basketball season opener again Northern Iowa on Nov. 25, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated Northern Iowa 96-81.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball sophomore Caitlin Clark can now add another gold medal and MVP award to her growing trophy case.

This August, Clark collected the third gold medal of her young career at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.

The U19 USA Women’s Basketball World Cup team went undefeated throughout seven games, defeating Italy, Australia, Egypt, Chinese Taipei, Spain, Hungary, and Australia for a second time to take home the gold.

In her first time starting with Team USA, Clark notched 100 total points, 39 rebounds, 37 assists, seven steals, and six blocks while playing seven games in nine days. The West Des Moines, Iowa native, was also named the FIBA U19 World Cup Most Valuable Player.

After being the youngest on her previous USA Basketball teams — the 2017 U16 FIBA Americas Tournament and the 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup Tournament — Clark found new leadership skills as she was the oldest on the 2021 U19 team.

“I think I actually played one of the most important roles on the team, this was my first time starting on USA Basketball,” Clark said in a Zoom press conference with reporters Friday. “That was really different for me, but I think just bringing that experience to our team with one, girls who haven’t even done USA Basketball or two, haven’t ever played in a college basketball game was huge for us.”

Clark also tried out a new position with USA Basketball — the ‘2’. With multiple point guards on the USA Basketball roster, Clark found herself playing more off the ball.

“Obviously at Iowa I play the ‘1’, have the ball in my hands a lot more than I did at USA where I’m playing off the ball,” Clark said. “But I also think that’s really helped me improve different areas of my game, so I know coach Bluder and the coaching staff was pretty excited for me to play off the ball a little bit.”

Although she developed a new aspect to her game over the summer, Clark is still the only true point guard on the Hawkeye women’s basketball roster for the 2021-22 season. 

But for Iowa’s opponents this season, it’s a new thing to scout for the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

“I’m probably going to have the ball in my hands a lot of the time [at Iowa] running the ‘1’, just because I’m the only true point guard that we have,” Clark said. “And that’s the position I’m most comfortable in as well, that’s what I’ve always played.

“But if I’m playing off the ball, that’s just another thing that [opponents] will have to scout and to know,” she added. “I think it can open up a lot of different things. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ll be doing more of it, I think I was off the ball a good amount last year, just finding ways to be effective off the ball is the best way for me to improve.”

During her time with USA Basketball, Clark also learned new defensive schemes she hopes to bring to Iowa — a team with a defense that ranked 336th out of 336 Division I women’s basketball  teams, allowing 80.3 points per game.

“If you want to be great you have to play defense,” Clark said. “And we know that, we’re not, I mean, we’re not dumb. We know that if we want to get far in the tournament we have to play defense and that’s honestly why this summer we spent so much of our time focused on defense… but we weren’t very good [on defense] and we still made it to the Sweet 16, so I think that just shows when we do improve that we could be pretty unstoppable.”

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