Nonetheless standing amid the wreckage of fallen juggernauts, 21-year-old Clark and 20-year-old Reese embody a star energy now not attainable within the males’s recreation, the place essentially the most proficient gamers go away after one yr to enter the NBA draft, usually declaring their departure as quickly because the match concludes, simply as many people informal spectators are studying their names and backgrounds. Perhaps sooner or later, the WNBA lowers its age requirement — at the moment 22 years previous or 4 years faraway from highschool — and essentially the most proficient girls will go away for the professionals after a single yr of school, however for now, their prolonged time on campus blooms the storylines and rivalries that heighten a sport’s drama.
Clark has been a fixture on SportsCenter highlights for not less than three years, draining pictures so removed from the basket that announcers have in contrast her to Stephen Curry. She has been within the nationwide highlight for therefore lengthy that even informal sports activities followers have witnessed her break information, make jokes in postgame interviews, and maintain again tears after devastating losses. By the point she stepped onto the court docket on Sunday for her first NCAA championship recreation, the Related Press had named her the country’s best player, and an increasing circle of admirers touted her killer intuition and cold-blooded swagger.
Within the quarterfinals, she confronted off in opposition to Louisville’s star guard, Hailey Van Lith, a third-year participant who had led her staff to the Remaining 4 in 2022. Like Clark, Van Lith had developed a popularity for her aggressive ardour. She had jawed together with her Texas opponents throughout her earlier recreation, and within the handshake line afterward, certainly one of them appeared to say to her, “Name me a pussy once more, bitch, I’mma beat your ass.” Van Lith continued working her mouth within the recreation in opposition to Iowa. After hitting an extended shot, she stomped towards the sideline and appeared to shout, “Get the fuck off my court docket, bitch.” Later, as Van Lith apparently stored speaking shit even as soon as Iowa was comfortably forward, Clark appeared to fireplace again, “You’re down by 15. Shut up.”
Within the subsequent spherical, in opposition to a traditionally dominant South Carolina staff closely favored to win all of it, Clark waved dismissively at an opponent standing extensive open on the three-point line, “as if to say, ‘I don’t care about you, I’m not defending you,’” the ESPN announcer described. For the second straight recreation she scored not less than 40 factors, then capped off the victory with the “you possibly can’t see me” hand gesture.
Enjoying at her highest stage, toppling the most effective staff within the nation, dwelling as much as the hype of her stature, Clark appeared on the highway to coronation. However the championship recreation pitted her in opposition to a fellow iconoclast envisioning her personal ascendency. Reese and Clark posed as compelling foils for one another, with contrasting kinds and paths to excellence, establishing a showdown bursting with intrigue, the high-octane guard from Des Moines in opposition to the post-prowling ahead from Baltimore.
Whereas Clark thrives within the airspace removed from the ring, Reese operates beneath it, jostling amid the tangle of limbs within the trenches, slipping into slim pockets with crisp footwork, corralling free balls with hard-nosed persistence, breaking rebounding information with a knack for intelligent physique positioning. Her distinctive skills shine in particulars subtler than the splashy thrill of a three-point shot. Basketball coaches usually name rebounding the “soiled work” of the sport, the invisible labor extra more likely to elicit awe from teammates watching movie than cheers from stadium crowds.