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Caitlin Clark wins 2nd straight AP Player of the Year in women’s hoops

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates after defeating LSU in an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament on April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(AP) – Caitlin Clark is capping her illustrious college career with another record-breaking season and another set of prestigious awards.

The star guard from Iowa was honored Thursday as The Associated Press Player of the Year in women’s basketball for the second consecutive year.

Clark received 35 votes from the 36-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Cameron Brink of Stanford received the other vote. Voting was done before March Madness began.

The 22-year-old Clark is the sixth player to win the award more than once and fifth to do it in consecutive seasons.

Clark has announced she will enter the WNBA draft this year. The Indiana Fever have the first overall draft pick and have said they intend to select Clark.

The NCAA Division I career scoring leader set numerous records while helping Iowa reach the Final Four for a second consecutive season. A semifinal matchup with UConn awaits on Friday night in Cleveland.

Clark’s play with her logo-depth 3-pointers and dazzling passes has captured the hearts of fans who showed up by the thousands wearing her No. 22 jersey whether Iowa was at home or on the road all season.

“I think that’s the best part about what I get to do. I grew up having those role models and aspiring to be where I am today,” Clark said. “It’s super special to see your impact not only in the state of Iowa but across the country. … To be able to have that impact on the next generation is really special, and you just hope to dream and aspire to be like you one day and chase after all their dreams.”

Opposing coaches have called her a generational talent and tried to stifle her creativity and scoring, but she averaged 31.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists during the regular season to help Iowa go 29-4 and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Her games have become appointment viewing for millions — the Elite Eight rematch with LSU earlier this week was seen by more than 12 million, a record for any women’s college basketball game — and raised the profile of the sport even higher as it enjoys a surge in popularity. She is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft later this month, a slot held by the Indiana Fever.

Clark has been quick to credit her teammates and coach, and note that the women’s game had stars like Lynette Woodard and Pearl Moore and many others long before she started dazzling fans in an era where scores of games are easily found on TV every season.

Her college career will be come to an end this weekend and it has been quite a ride for the West Des Moines native.

“I feel like I’ve talked about her, like used every word imaginable to describe her,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court.”