Iowa Women's Basketball

Caitlin Clark ready to take the keys at point guard for Iowa women's basketball

At No. 4 in the 2020 class, Dowling star is the most decorated incoming recruit of the Lisa Bluder era

West Des Moines Dowling's Caitlin Clark (11) brings the ball downcourt against Waukee in the 2019 girls' state basketbal
West Des Moines Dowling’s Caitlin Clark (11) brings the ball downcourt against Waukee in the 2019 girls’ state basketball tournament. Clark will play next season for the Iowa Hawkeyes. (The Gazette)

Lisa Bluder makes it sound like a seamless transition.

“It’s like, ‘Exit Doyle, Enter Clark,’” said Bluder, women’s basketball coach at the University of Iowa.

After a season capped by earning Big Ten player-of-the-year honors, point guard Kathleen Doyle is off to the WNBA; she was drafted by the Indiana Fever last week.

Ready to take her place is Caitlin Clark, the most highly ranked recruit of the Bluder era, which spans more than two decades.

Clark, rated No. 4 among this year’s high school seniors by ESPN, isn’t short on self-confidence. But she’s also self-aware.

“I think freshman year, it will be a lot of learning,” Clark said in an interview Tuesday. “College basketball is so much different than high school.”

A 5-foot-11 gem out of West Des Moines Dowling, Clark picked the Hawkeyes in November over two other finalists — Iowa State and Notre Dame. Dozens of other schools pursued her.

“She’s a huge get for us,” Bluder said. “She’s listed as the second-best (incoming) point guard in the country. She’s a competitor.

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“She has the same passion at Kathleen, the same grittiness, the same moxie, the same confidence.”

And the same uniform number. Clark, who wore No. 11 at Dowling, will convert to 22 at Iowa. It’s the same numeral that Doyle wore before Clark, and Samantha Logic wore it before Doyle.

That’s a heck of a lineage.

“I didn’t get to wear (22) in high school because Dowling always wore odd numbers,” Clark said. “My birthday is January 22, so 22 is my number.”

Speaking of numbers, how about these?

Clark ranks No. 4 all-time among Iowa five-on-five girls’ basketball players with 2,547 points. She led the state in scoring as a junior (32.5 points per game) and as a senior (33.7).

Her 283 3-point career goals stands at No. 6. And her shooting accuracy — 50.9 percent from the field, 39.8 from 3-point range and 79.7 from the free-throw line — all were at their best in her senior season.

That season, and her high-school career, ended shockingly and abruptly with a 67-63 loss to Sioux City East in a Class 5A regional final.

“I think we were 1 of 14 (from the field) in the third quarter. We were getting good, open shots, but weren’t making them,” said Clark, who scored 40 points in the loss. “(East) made everything. It was nothing we had seen from them on film before.

“It was like, ‘What? Honestly?’ It just wasn’t our day.”

Dowling finished 19-4.

If that was the low for Clark, the high came Feb. 4, 2019, at Mason City. She made 18 of 28 field-goal tries, including 13 of 17 from long range, and sank 11 of 15 free throws in a 60-point masterpiece.

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“I started really hot; I think I had 25 (points) in the first quarter,” Clark said. “The game was super close most of the way (Dowling pulled away late and won, 90-78); it’s not like I was trying to run up points.”

The 3-point line for the college women’s game is 20 feet, 9 inches. Clark’s range extends well beyond that.

“We haven’t had a player with that kind of range,” Bluder said. “The things she can do as far as scoring ... it’s going to be fun. She’s an incredible passer, an incredible transition player.”

In these days of lockdown, Clark’s training options are better than most. She has a neighborhood friend with an indoor basketball court, and her own driveway — complete with hoop — is spacious.

“Shooting at home, it’s a flashback to my elementary days,” she said.

Caitlin’s brother, Blake, will be a redshirt sophomore for the Iowa State football team next fall. He served as a holder on the Cyclones’ special-teams unit last season and is a backup quarterback.

ISU is scheduled to play at Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 12, and that leaves Caitlin with a dilemma.

“I’ll root for Blake,” she said. “I’ll be there for a good game.”

With Blake home from college due to the pandemic, the siblings have been able to work out regularly. Caitlin has been taking cooking lessons from her mom, and game nights have been frequent.

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At Dowling, Clark had a reputation for her high level of confidence, with some stubbornness mixed in.

Bluder isn’t concerned.

“Any time you have new people coming into the program, you’ve got to work on attitude and chemistry, no matter who it is,” Bluder said. “Every time, there’s a new dynamic. It’s something you have to work on, and it starts in the summer.

“We’ve had personality clashes before, and I’ve been able to fix it. That’s part of my job.”

Clark is the bluest of blue-chip recruits that Bluder has snared at Iowa. And she wants to take the Hawkeyes to a level they haven’t seen in a generation.

“I wanted to do something different,” she said. “Iowa isn’t a program that always been to the Final Four (since 1993), and I want to help do something different.”

So, how about it, Caitlin?

Exit Doyle, Enter Clark? Is it that simple?

“I don’t know ... I have a lot to learn, But that’s kind the vibe I have gotten,” she said.

“I’m ready for the challenge. I have a lot of confidence. We have the potential to be very, very successful.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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