Iowa's Caitlin Clark named AP women's Player of the Year

Caitlin Clark shares her keys to confidence and how she handles basketball stardom (1:58)

Iowa's Caitlin Clark joins "First Take" to detail how she became so confident in her game and what it means for superstars to acknowledge it and praise her. (1:58)

DALLAS -- Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa's junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game's biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women's basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before the NCAA tournament began.

"It's a huge honor," Clark said. "I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that's allowed me to show my skill set. I'd be lying if I said it didn't mean something. It's not the reason you play basketball, it's just something that comes along with getting to do what you love."

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children's Hospital -- a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes' athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

"I'm there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time," said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. "Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing."

Clark also received three other honors Thursday as she won the Wade Trophy and was named to the 10-member WBCA All-America team and the five-member Wooden Award All-American team.

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women's history. She also has over 300 assists.

"She is spectacular. I don't know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court," Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season's winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

"There's so many great players, more than just me and [Aliyah]," Clark told the AP. "You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that's really good for our game when there's a lot of great players. That's what is going to help this game grow more than anything else."

Whether it's hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeyes' logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn't been in a long time.

"It's funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays," Bluder said. "It's like she locks in on those, when we're playing against Top 25 teams. That's when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents."

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson, who won it in 2019.

The Wade Trophy, named after former Delta State coach Margaret Wade, is the oldest player of the year award in women's basketball; it was first given in 1978. Clark also won the Naismith Award this week.

The WBCA All-America team dates back to 1975. The other members of that team are Boston, LSU's Angel Reese and Virginia's Tech's Elizabeth Kitley -- who like Clark are all playing in the Final Four -- along with Stanford's Cameron Brink, Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes, Iowa State's Ashley Joens, Maryland's Diamond Miller, Utah's Alissa Pili and Villanova's Maddy Siegrist.

The Wooden Award All-Americans are Clark, Boston, Brink, Holmes and Siegrist. The winner of the Wooden Award will be announced Monday. All five All-Americans are invited to the Wooden Award presentation April 7 in Los Angeles, where South Carolina's Dawn Staley also will receive the Legends of Coaching Award.

ESPN's M.A. Voepel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.