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By Lacey Gardner

Pollock column: Should Caitlin Clark reconsider another season at Iowa?

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A column by Sun Senior Sports Columnist CHUCK POLLOCK

I’ve been a viewer of interest since Caitlin Clark commenced her home-stretch assault on college basketball’s all-time scoring records.

The University of Iowa’s 6-foot senior guard has systematically dispatched every meaningful mark, capped by Sunday afternoon. in a 93-83 victory over BigTen rival Ohio State before a national TV audience — thank you WUTV-TV for missing the game’s most compelling moment — and yet another sellout crowd of 15,000 at Iowa City’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena, it happened. 

Clark ballooned her career total of three-pointers to 508 as she dropped 35 points on the Buckeyes and surged past Pete Maravich into the all-time collegiate scoring lead with 3,685 points.

We didn’t actually get to see the decisive moment as the Fox video froze up with  23 seconds to play in the first half and the ball in Clark’s hands needing two points to exceed Maravich’s record. The network’s WUTV affiliate in Buffalo and several others across the country then froze up for nearly five minutes.

When the broadcast finally returned, Clark was being interviewed at intermission and congratulated for setting the record.

We were told that in the closing seconds Ohio State had been called for a technical foul and the two resulting free throws for Clark gave her the record.

BUT THERE are several caveats to her breaking Maravich’s mark and they, in no way, impugn Clark’s extraordinary accomplishment.

She did, however, have two decided advantages over the late LSU star.

One, Maravich, who graduated in 1970, preceded freshman eligibility, and two, almost equally important, he played before the era of three-point field goals.

As Clark neared the record, researchers reviewed film of his 83 collegiate games when he averaged 44 points over his career. They ascertained that had a three-pointer been in existence when he played, his average would have been an unthinkable 54 points per game and had he played in the freshman-eligible era, he likely would have scored over 6,000 points.

However, there is one statistic that favors Clark in comparison with Maravich. She has averaged 33 points in her career and 37 this season and she’s accomplished that by taking a modest 20 shots per game. Pistol Pete was unleashing 38 shots on average and did so with impunity as he was playing for his dad and coach, Press Maravich.

It’s unquestioned that Clark is one of college basketball’s all-time three-point shooters, working free for spot shots or step-back jumpers. However, in my mind, the best woman three-point shooter I ever saw, off-the-dribble, was St. Bonaventure guard Jessica Jenkins. She could pull up in an instant and hit with uncanny accuracy. A star on Jim Crowley’s tournament teams she finished with 238 treys, SBU’s women’s record and fourth among both genders at the school.

My fascination with the three-versus-four year eligibility and pre-three-point field goal eras came as I researched two of St. Bonaventure’s  most prolific scorers; Greg Sanders and Bob Lanier, first and fourth, with Andrew Nicholson and Earl Belcher in between.

Sanders (2238 points) played four years and averaged 20 per game, but before the three-point line. Had it been in place it’s estimated his career total would have been over 2,500 and closer to an average of 23.

Lanier (2,067 points) had a three-year career and while it’s doubtful he would have even double figures extra three pointers, that extra season would likely have put him over 2,700 points and easily made him Bona’s all-time leading scorer. That said, his three-year numbers of nearly 28 points and 16 rebounds per game speaks to an incredible career.

It’s worth noting that he, Maravich, Purdue’s Rick Mount, Kentucky’s Dan Issel and Niagara’s Calvin Murphy were 1970’s First-Team NCAA All-America squad.

A FINAL THOUGHT on Clark.

Last week she announced her intention to join the WNBA Draft, much to my disappointment.

On the surface, it makes sense, as she’ll be the No. 1 overall pick. But there are other considerations.

The NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) decree has now become a factor in the move from college to the pros.

Indeed, the NFL will feel that impact this year as players who project in the sixth or seventh round and have eligibility remaining know that their chances of making a 53-man roster are slim and based on salary-slotting won’t make much money if they do. On a practice squad it will be even worse. For those players who already have NIL deals and eligibility left, many could make more as a collegian than they would as an NFL draftee or free agent.

That reality already concerns league general managers about a loss of quality depth in the late rounds.

In Clark’s case, she already has a national deal with State Farm Insurance and undoubtedly sponsorships throughout the state of Iowa. Had she played next year it would be in front of sellout crowds every game with enhanced national TV exposure while extending her all-time scoring record AND likely earning seven-figure NIL money.

As a WNBA pick, even as the first overall draft choice, her salary is dictated: $77,000.

Indeed, given the league’s charter-dictated salary limits, she would never come close to earning in a single year as a pro what she would in one final season at Iowa.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

More from Chuck, from the Bonnies to the Bills:

St. Bonaventure primed for strong finish in Atlantic 10

• Feature on the Bonnies as the season winds down

• What to make from the Super Bowl

• A look at free agency with the Buffalo Bills

• Don’t blame Bass for the playoff loss

• St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt was right about the Atlantic 10 and the Bonnies

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