IOWA CITY — You see the scowl, and you see the slap to the floor, and you know Caitlin Clark takes her basketball seriously.
But, apparently, not herself.
“She’s not scared to laugh at herself,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said Monday. “She’s somebody you can tease, and somebody that takes it well.
“Get her off the court, and she’s quite a jokester.”
Really? A jokester?
“On the court, I look intense and serious,” said Clark, now a five-time Big Ten freshman of the week. “But I think I’m a loose, fun person.
“You can’t take everything so seriously. You’ve got to be able to laugh it off. Maybe in a game, I don’t laugh as much, but it’s because everything means a little more in a game.”
Clark has been breathtaking in her rookie season. The West Des Moines Dowling product ranks fourth nationally in scoring (26.4 points per game) and is eighth in assists (6.5 per game).
“She’s an amazing player,” said sophomore McKenna Warnock, who earned her own honor this week as a member of the Big Ten honor roll. “She brings a lot to the team. We needed a point guard and a leader to step up after (Kathleen) Doyle (graduated).”
Yes, Clark needed to step up. But she also needed to fit in.
“I just needed to be myself,” she said. “Just play my game, and make friendships and relationships off the court.”
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No doubt, Clark plays with an edge (earlier this season, she called it “swag”). If a call goes against her, she doesn’t hide her displeasure. In a Dec. 2 game at Drake, she and Bulldogs guard Kierra Collier were nose to nose for a moment.
“Doyle also had an edge,” junior post Monika Czinano said. “So it was something we were used to. Obviously, it looks different on different people.”
Bluder is a strict proponent of culture and chemistry.
“It’s something we really stress,” she said. “And Caitlin doesn’t act like a prima donna off the court. She’s a goof. One of the goofiest kids we’ve got.”
A jokester. A goof. And, without a doubt, one of the best freshmen in the country.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Clark said. “I’ve always thought this class was really, really talented, especially at the guard position.
“The point guard is usually the biggest leader on the team. Earning my teammates’ trust, that started this summer in the weight room and when we were playing pickup. I think they definitely trust me.”
The Hawkeyes (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) host Minnesota (2-4, 1-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
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