Iowa's Caitlin Clark wins Wooden Award, says LSU's Angel Reese shouldn't be criticized

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

Iowa junior guard Caitlin Clark made a special appearance on ESPN Tuesday and was named the 2023 Wooden Award winner, giving her a clean sweep of the major national player of the year honors.

The Wooden will be presented officially in Los Angeles in a ceremony on Friday. The other finalists were Aliyah Boston (South Carolina), Cameron Brink (Stanford), Mackenzie Holmes (Indiana) and Maddy Siegrist (Villanova).

Clark’s historic season ended with a 30-point, eight-assist performance in a 102-85 loss to LSU in the NCAA championship game, which drew 9.9 million viewers on ABC and instantly became the most-watched women’s basketball game ever recorded.

That finale was marked with questionable officiating and some end-of-game trash talk from LSU’s Angel Reese toward Clark. ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap pressed into that issue during Clark’s appearance.

"We're all competitive,” the 21-year-old from West Des Moines said. “We all show our emotions in a different way. Angel is a tremendous, tremendous player. I have nothing but respect for her. I love her game. The way she rebounds the ball, scores the ball is absolutely incredible. I’m a big fan of her and the entire LSU team.

“She should never be criticized for what she did. I’m just one that competes, and she competed. I think everybody knew there was going to be trash talk in the entire tournament, not just me and Angel.”

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Known to be a fiery player herself who plays the crowd, Clark added that those types of emotions were one of the reasons so many people nationally were drawn to watching the Hawkeyes and all the teams in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.  

“I’m lucky enough that I get to play this game and have emotions and wear it on my sleeves,” Clark said. “And so does everybody else. That should never be torn down. That should never be criticized. I believe that’s what makes this game so fun. That’s what draws people to this game.”

Caitlin Clark swept all the major national player of the year awards after her historic 2023 season, which included an upset win over No. 1 South Carolina in the Final Four.

Clark finished her season averaging 27.8 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game. Her season totals were 1,055 points (fourth-most in Division I history), 327 assists (fourth-most in D-I history) and 140 3-pointers (third-most in D-I history). All those figures are Big Ten Conference records.

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She swept the five major national player of the year awards: The Naismith, Wade, Meyers Drysdale, Associated Press and now the Wooden.

Clark now has 2,717 career points and will return to Iowa next season. She would need 811 points to top Kelsey Plum's Division I career record of 3,527 points.