If you didn’t already know Caitlin Clark’s name, you’d best learn it
Steph Curry is arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NBA right now. His ability to expand the floor with the range of an ICBM can make stone-faced humbugs raise an eyebrow and crack a smile in astonishment and awe. Women’s basketball hasn’t had anything like that in recent memory, that is, someone who is known for their ability to rack up insane amounts of points as primarily a three-point shooter.
Sure, there have been a ton of great shooters in WNBA history, but of the WNBA players with the top-25 career three-point percentages, only eight — Sandy Brondello, Jackie Stiles (only played two seasons), Eva Nemcova, Allie Quigley, Elena Delle Donne, Sue Bird, Elena Baranova, and Kelsey Plum — have also averaged more than ten points per game for their careers. Of those eight, only one — Bird — averaged more than four attempts from long range per game for her career.
Enter Caitlin Clark, 6-foot guard for Iowa. Clark is the focal point of the Hawkeyes’ offense. Much like Steph Curry, she has the range of an Olympic archer and remarkable ball skills as well. In her team’s most recent game against No. 6 Michigan, Clark dropped 46 points, shooting 14-of-29 from the field and 6-of-13 from beyond the arc. Forty-six points sounds like a career night, and it was for Clark. It was the most she’d ever dropped in a collegiate game. However, it was also her third 40-point game this season (1/31 v. OSU & 1/2 v. Evansville). It was the seventh time she’d scored at least thirty in a game. She’s currently averaging 27.4 points per game. That’s two points more than the next closest DI women’s college basketball player — Delaware’s Jasmine Dickey — and over four points more than anybody on the men’s side of college basketball.
What sets Clark apart from other top-tier scorers though is the way she does it. Dickey attempts about 2.5 3s a game. Clark attempts 8.5. Curry, one of the most prolific three-point shooters of all-time, has attempted 8.8 per game for his career, although that number is probably bogged down from his first three seasons in the league as a role player where he averaged less than five attempts per game. In his final year of college, Curry attempted 9.9 3s per game and averaged 28.6 points per game while playing in a non-Power 5 conference. I’d argue that Clark’s recent stretch has been more impressive.
Just look at these highlights from her team’s most recent game against No. 6 (now No. 4) Michigan. Step-back, mid-range jumpers, sidestep trey, faking a step-back with a hesi just to drive to the rim, pull-up from the logo. If I were to describe those highlights to you without any context, who’s highlights would you think I was describing? Curry? James Harden? Paul George? Nope, a college sophomore at Iowa.
Is this level of success sustainable in the WNBA? Maybe not. Kelsey Plum recorded the highest-scoring season in terms of points per game in NCAAW history (31.7) and averaged 6.45 three-point attempts per game during her collegiate career. However, through four seasons in the WNBA, she’s averaging less than four such shot attempts per. However, in 2021, Plum reinvigorated her three-point shot as a reserve player. She put up career-highs in three-point attempts per game and points per game. At just 27 years old, she still has several years to develop her game even further and start really making waves from beyond the arc. I’m hoping she does, because it’s players like Plum who will pave the way for players like Clark.
They have a chance to revolutionize the game, and it should be fun to watch.
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