Caitlin Clark develops new leadership skills with USA Basketball

After winning a gold medal with her U19 USA Basketball team this summer, Clark is hoping to transfer her newfound leadership skills to the Hawkeyes.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark prepares to shoot a 3-pointer during the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball championship against No. 4 Kentucky on March 23, 2021 at the Bill Greehey Arena at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 86-72.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Teammates and coaches of Caitlin Clark consistently look to her for leadership, as the Hawkeye women’s basketball program’s first-ever freshman All-American.

But it doesn’t come naturally to the young star.

Clark nabbed a starting spot as a true freshman in 2020-21, filling a lineup vacancy at point guard left by 2019-20 Big Ten Player of the Year Kathleen Doyle, who graduated in Spring 2020.

Although Clark topped the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball leaderboard in 2020-21 with 26.6 points per game and 214 total assists, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Clark felt that leadership was one of her weak spots.

“I think, obviously, it’s hard when you’re only 18 years old, and kind of put into that starting point guard role,” Clark said on a Zoom call with reporters on Aug. 20. “So I just think just maturing, just being more vocal, building more trust with my teammates — I think those are the biggest ones for me.”

Clark, from West Des Moines, put her leadership skills to the test this summer as she joined USA Basketball for the third time in her young career.

But this time, Clark was the oldest on the U19 FIBA World Cup Tournament team. Her past two experiences with USA Basketball — the 2017 U16 FIBA Americas Tournament and 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup Tournament — saw her as the youngest on the team.

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Clark said playing with younger teammates, some who haven’t even stepped on a collegiate court, helped her develop a stronger understanding of how to lead.

“I think even just the leadership aspect, I think is a huge one,” Clark said. “Just improving in that area, and then bringing that back being around different coaches, different girls, you get different experiences and different learning opportunities. So, I think that’s that, that’ll be a huge one for myself and bringing that back to Iowa.”

The sophomore flashed her skills at the World Cup Tournament, registering 100 points, 39 assists, 37 rebounds, seven steals, and six blocks as her U19 team took home the gold medal in Debrecen, Hungary.

But the newly-crowned U19 Most Valuable Player maintained a team-first attitude throughout her seven games in nine days.

“I mean, more than anything, [you] just want to build your teammates up, no matter what,” Clark said. “And I think if we want to go as far as we can, I need to be vocal, I need to be a leader. And I mean, your point guard has to, that’s what she has to do.”

Now, with the help of Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder, Clark is working on transferring her leadership skills from USA Basketball to the Hawkeyes for the 2021-22 season.

“I think obviously having Coach Bluder as my coach, somebody that’s been around women’s college basketball for so long — she has so many great pieces of advice,” Clark said. “So, we’ve had a lot of meetings, a lot of learning opportunities for myself, and, you know, I’m still growing in that area. And I think that’s only gonna get better for me, and help our team have more and more success.”