Tracking Caitlin Clark’s scoring prowess: Will she pass Pete Maravich? – The Athletic

Shannon RyanFeb 19, 2024

Caitlin Clark has collected more points than any other player in NCAA women’s basketball history. That doesn’t mean she has finished climbing the charts.

Clark, who has logged 3,569 career points, could still set herself apart as the most prolific scorer in the sport. The Iowa senior guard recently broke former Washington guard Kelsey Plum’s record of 3,527 points, so she’ll appear at the top of the NCAA record book for that.

Though she won’t technically break these records, her potential to accumulate enough points to move past men’s top scorer Pete Maravich (3,667 points), AIAW large-college record-holder Lynette Woodard (3,649 points) and AIAW small-college leader Pearl Moore (4,061) is noteworthy.

Clark needs 99 points to surpass Maravich, who set the men’s record in 1970 at LSU. He averaged an astounding 44.2 points per game and reached this feat in only three seasons of competition (freshmen couldn’t play varsity) and without a 3-point line. Averaging a nation-leading 32.8 points per game, Clark is on pace to pass Pistol Pete in three games, which would come Feb. 28 at Minnesota.

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Woodard’s record, set in the AIAW era of women’s sports predating the NCAA era, was set at Kansas in 1981, just a year before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball. Her scoring is not included in the NCAA record book. Clark needs 81 points to pass her, which she’s on track to accomplish in two games, which would come next Sunday against Illinois.

Passing Moore would be a little harder. If Clark keeps up her average and Iowa advances to the Big Ten tournament championship and the NCAA Tournament championship, she’d still fall a couple of games shy of scoring the 493 points she needs to advance past Moore’s mark. Clark could come back for a fifth season and distance herself from many more future competitors, but her point total would come with a pretty large asterisk when it comes to comparing Clark’s and Moore’s numbers.

Clark broke Plum’s record Thursday against Michigan with a magnificent 49-point performance. So hitting new heights isn’t out of the question. No. 4 Iowa next plays Thursday at Indiana.

Caitlin Clark and Pete Maravich: Two scoring stars worth celebrating equally

“You find yourself forgetting the game, and just watching him. He’s not just a shooter. He’s everything.’’

That’s how St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca described LSU guard Pete Maravich to the New York Daily News back in March 1970. By then, the Pistol Pete show had zipped across the South, and beelined its way to Madison Square Garden for the NIT — back when the NIT was a big deal. Thousands of fans and curiosity seekers followed the all-time leading scorer in NCAA basketball history, who ticked off record markers like a to-do list. He skipped past Elvin Hayes on the scoring charts, bypassed Oscar Robertson for the top of the list, crossed the 3,000-point barrier, and eventually settled on a scoring mark that has stood for more than 50 years.

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Caitlin Clark is about to pass it.

This simple fact will ignite discourse across an aisle nearly as wide as any you’ll find in Washington D.C. On the one side, folks will begrudge Clark her spot at the top. They will argue that not only did Maravich not have the benefit of the 3-point line that Clark has used to accrue 1,461 of her 3,569 career points, he was not eligible by NCAA rules at the time to participate as a freshman. The 741 points Maravich scored on LSU’s freshman team aren’t part of his 3,667 total. On the other side, those in search of inserting added meaning into Clark’s accomplishment will entirely disregard that statistical context in order to hold Clark up as a feminist icon who has finally bested the boys.

Here’s a novel idea. Let’s not do either. Instead, let’s objectively appreciate the greatness of both, equally but individually. Because, statistics included or excluded, Clark and Maravich are equals.

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Caitlin Clark and Pete Maravich: Two scoring stars worth celebrating equally

Clark can score from anywhere — we have the charts to prove it

Time and again, as Clark passed opponents on the court and contemporaries in the record book, she elevated from 3 and rose to the occasion. When she became the NCAA women’s basketball all-time leading scorer Thursday, she did so in a 49-point outing, setting a new career high and Iowa record in the process. Holding the NCAA scoring title with 3,569 points, her chase to the top will be remembered for her sheer dominance and unmatched consistency. “What she’s done to uplift our program and women’s basketball nationally is spectacular,” Lisa Bluder said after the Hawkeyes’ 106-89 win.

Here’s a look at how Clark amassed her thousands of points:

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Caitlin Clark is a threat from anywhere, against anyone. Here are the numbers to prove it

An ‘unmatched’ scorer, a historic night

After the record had fallen but before the celebrations kicked off, Clark found herself on an island.

She had known the general plan for the night if she made history, if she became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball: Photos. A commemorative basketball. A quick interview for the fans in the arena.

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But she didn’t know about the video. She wasn’t prepared for that.

With all eyes on her and five television cameras stationed just a few feet in front of her, Clark leaned up against the scorer’s table — the same spot where she has checked in and out of games hundreds of times over the past four years — and looked up at the big video board. She folded her arms and braced herself. She had promised herself she wouldn’t cry.

Here’s how the night unfolded for her:

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Caitlin Clark’s scoring record makes her historic. Her greatness makes her unmatched

Clark’s journey to the record

From Clark’s freshman debut Nov. 25, 2020, when she said, “I set my goals pretty high,” to hitting 3,528 points for the NCAA women’s basketball record, we take you on a journey of Clark’s career:

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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark sets NCAA women’s hoops scoring record

What’s it like to call an Iowa game?

“You need a thesaurus to call her games.” — Zora Stephenson

“Her home games certainly necessitate long layouts (broadcasters being silent).” — Rebecca Lobo

“How can I punctuate some of these moments in a unique way that grasps the energy of the moment and the gravity of what she’s doing but also sound unique and different than just a normal made 3?” — Ryan Ruocco

These broadcasters and more weigh in:

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Calling Caitlin Clark: Broadcasters on the honor and challenge of announcing history

Congratulations, Caitlin

From Billie Jean King to former President Barack Obama, Tom Brady, Magic Johnson and Angel Reese, the congratulatory messages for Clark have continued pouring in. She has the nation’s attention.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photos of Lynette Woodard, Caitlin Clark, Pete Maravich: Courtesy of Kansas Athletics; Matthew Holst, Rich Clarkson / Getty Images)

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Shannon Ryan is The Athletic’s women’s basketball managing editor. She spent the previous 13 years as a college sports reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, primarily covering college basketball and football. She began her journalism career covering the NFL and college sports for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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