Caitlin Clark’s green light rank made her the gold standard in women’s college basketball

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when it was determined in Iowa that any shot that came out of Caitlin Clark’s hands was not only a reasonable shot, but a good shot. Because there are green lights, and then there are green lights. And Clark has operated as a natural in the latter for much of his career.

But a strong argument can be made that it was February 1st. 6, 2022.

It was Clark’s second season, and while she had put up big numbers, she was still not considered the one-woman wrecking crew she has now become. To reach that story level, a player must not only throw the stones but also kill Goliath. And at that time, although she was a great scorer, she was on a team that had not yet defeated the best opponents. The Hawkeyes were 1-9 against career Top 25 teams and were on the road facing No. 6 Michigan.

He started the game with a step-back from the free throw line and followed it up with a pull-up triple. He hit a few drives and more midrange, but the real joy came when he started hitting 3-pointers during the fourth quarter as the Hawkeyes (read: Clark) tried to pull off the upset. In a 92-second span, he hit three transition 3-pointers, the final one while being mobbed by Michigan defenders whom Clark skated on. He finished with 46 points. Although Iowa still lost, something changed that night.

As the announcers shouted into their microphones after another logo triplet: “What did she do? What did she just do? Iowa coach Lisa Bluder walked calmly down the sideline, not even surprised or excited enough to uncross her arms. Without context, she just sounds like a coach saying the same old thing as she walks over to her bench.

“At first when you coach her, it’s entertaining in practice when she takes some of those shots and hits some of those shots. But then in games as a coach, you think, ‘Ugh, that’s not recommended,’” Bluder said. “But there comes a point where you realize, ‘She’s different from everyone else and she, in fact, she can accomplish this at a pretty alarming rate.’

“There was a change in my mind,” he added. “At that point it was like, ‘Okay, let’s get on with this.’”

“This” as in: For Clark, anything goes.

And from February to January 6, 2022, this has worked out quite well for both Clark and Iowa. The senior is now 39 points shy of the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record, and the Hawkeyes, who defeated to South Carolina, the Goliath of women’s basketball, in last season’s Final Four, they are now nationally recognized as a powerhouse and firmly ranked No. 2 in the nation. this season behind the Gamecocks.

Clark is a household name outside the world of women’s basketball, a player who is closely monitored by security officers before and after games and at public events. She has NIL partnerships with Nike, State Farm and Gatorade. She is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft if she declares, and the biggest headache for opposing coaches in women’s college basketball if she opts to return for her fifth year.


Ask coaches who have faced it (or who fear they might in the future), and they will all explain the same thing: you don’t stop it. You could slow it down, you could make it more inefficient, but there’s no stopping Clark. When Clark dropped those 46 points at Michigan in 2022, Wolverine coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the game, “I didn’t even know what the hell was going on.”

That might be the most impressive part of his run to the scoring record: Clark’s unwavering consistency. She has never missed a game. In 124 starts at Iowa, she only once failed to score in double figures. As she has expanded her range over the past four seasons, her field goal percentages have continually increased. “Her consistency of hers is off the charts,” Bluder said Thursday night after Clark scored 27 points in a win against Penn State. “For her to do this day after day, night after night, sold out stadiums, chasing records, being so consistent is incredible. Everyone has a bad night. We all have bad nights. “Caitlin doesn’t have bad nights.”

As teams have taken new and different defensive looks at her, she has continued to outrun anything her opponents can create. She duplicates it and finds the angle. If you corner her, she rises to shoot. Throw the kitchen sink at her only to discover that she can press logo 3 and wash the dishes at the same time.

Of the top 10 scorers in Division I history, only two averaged more than 25 points during their entire college career (current record holder Kelsey Plum: 25.4; Elena Delle Donne: 26.7).

Clark averaged 28.1.

This season, fans across the Big Ten have shelled out hundreds of dollars to get their butts in conference stadiums in the hopes that their “home” team can take a 46-point beating from the 6-foot guard alone So they, too, can have The Caitlin Clark Experience.

Under the microscope, Clark hasn’t faltered either. His worst game this season (a 24-point, six-rebound, three-assist night against Kansas State) would still be a career night for 99 percent of college basketball players.

Clark said after the game, “I think it shows that you have to come in every day and be ready to play basketball because it doesn’t matter who it is, you can beat anyone, you can lose.” [to] any. That’s a great thing about women’s basketball. That’s what makes it so fun. “I’m just disappointed that we didn’t put on a great performance for our fans, who came and supported us very well.”

GO DEEPER

When will Caitlin Clark break the all-time women’s college basketball scoring record?

Because when you watch Clark, it’s not just basketball, it’s a true performance that she delivers to fans who show up not just with a hope but with the expectation of being enthralled and amazed. They don’t want 3, they want logo 3. They don’t want no-look passes, they want to see something they’ve never seen before. They want the show that Clark’s coaches and teammates have put on in practice for the past four seasons. Not only do they want the green light from Bluder for Clark, they want her on the Autobahn for 40 minutes.

Despite all that attention, Clark has not only delivered, he has been consistently excellent, leaving viewers constantly asking, “What did he do?” What did she just do?

Now, she may be a few quarters away from cementing herself atop the NCAA women’s scoring record, a feat that for Clark, with that green light, looks like she could be just one or two really good quarters away from becoming the top scorer. teacher.

(Caitlin Clark Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images)