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Q&A With Iowa Star Caitlin Clark On NIL, Heat Checks, Dream H-O-R-S-E Matchups & More

Iowa star Caitlin Clark rises up to attempt a jump shot in a game.

PISCATAWAY, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 24: Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots a free throw against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jersey Mike's Arena on February 24, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

If you're a basketball fan who frequents social media, chances are you've recently seen highlights of Iowa's super sophomore Caitlin Clark.

Clark, a 6-foot guard from Des Moines, is setting college basketball on fire once again this season after a remarkable freshman campaign last year in which she led the nation in scoring. Through 27 games this season, she's averaging 27.5 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds per outing, leading the Hawkeyes to a No. 12 national ranking and their first Big Ten regular season title in 14 years.

Along the way, she's racked up countless viral clips of her shooting and scoring exploits, including her Steph Curry-like ability to attempt (and make) shots from basically anywhere inside of halfcourt.

We had the chance to speak with Clark this week about her new partnership with H&R Block, goals for the rest of the season, her dream H-O-R-S-E competitors and much, much more. Let's get started... The Spun: First things first, can you tell us a little bit more about your partnership with H&R Block and the "A Fair Shot" program? How did this opportunity come about? Caitlin Clark: H&R Block is really trying to create that "fair shot" for women's college athletes, committing $1 million to give back to female student-athletes across the country. Also, NIL (Name, Images and Likeness) is so new, so they are going to help us with our taxes and tax guidelines, just walking us through that process to help us be financially stable for the future. I think that is so important, because this is something that student-athletes have not dealt with. I think it really speaks to who they are in wanting to commit to leveling the playing field in women's college athletics and giving back $1 million to female college athletes. The Spun: As you mentioned, NIL did not become legalized until this year. When did you really start to focus on it or become more aware and conscious of it? CC: I don't think I honestly really knew about it until like midway through my freshman year, around December or January. That's when there was starting to be a lot more conversations about 'Okay, this might really happen this year.' I think that's when I kind of became more aware and started to try to educate myself on what this might entail.

The Spun: On the men's college basketball side, in the Big Ten for example, there have been players like Jordan Bohannon at Iowa and Rutgers' Geo Baker who were very outspoken about NIL rights. Besides yourself, who are some of the women's players who are taking an active role in promoting NIL?

CC: I think there's been quite a few. I think [South Carolina guard] Zia Cooke and [Oregon forward] Sedona Prince were some big names. I think Sedona especially during the NCAA Tournament talked a lot about the different inequities going on. But I think there are a lot of female student-athletes across the board that have used their voice and talked about NIL. I'm not sure all of them really knew exactly what it was when it started, but I think more and more people are starting to understand what you can and can't do with it.

The Spun: The 'N' in NIL stands for Name and obviously your name has been all over social media really since you started at Iowa but especially in the last month or so. How has it been for you to see your name trending all over the place like that and be recognized by some of the best basketball players in the world?

CC: I think it's almost surreal in a way, because I feel like I was just that little girl yesterday watching all those players on Twitter, watching their highlights and wanting to be like them. Now, I'm in that moment and I'm enjoying every single second of it. But it is surreal and crazy and I'm just trying to soak it all in. I feel very thankful to be where I am with the people I'm with. They help me look pretty good. I wouldn't be anywhere if it wasn't for my teammates.

The Spun: Was there any particular person or persons who either reached out to you or commented on your highlights or mentioned you on Twitter or Instagram that made you stop and go 'Whoa, this is kind of crazy'?

CC: I feel like there's been quite a few. LeBron, Ja Morant, KD [Kevin Durant], Sue Bird. There's been a lot of really great NBA and WNBA players that have really noticed and appreciate the women's game. It's cool to see them talking about it.

The Spun: Here's a pretty fun question. If you could have three players--past or present, men's or women's--to shoot against in a game of H-O-R-S-E, who would they be? CC: Oh, that's a really good question. I think I'd go Steph Curry, Diana Taurasi and Michael Jordan. That's hard to pick though [laughs]. The Spun: Any predictions for how it would go? CC: I'd probably come in last [laughing]. The Spun: Growing up, and even now, what were some of the drills that you focused on to hone your shooting ability? CC: I think honestly just focusing on the fundamentals and form shooting. I would get mad at my dad because he wouldn't let me go out and shoot threes when I was a little girl because it would mess up my form. I would be pretty mad at him, but I guess looking back, I'm thankful for that. I think just the fundamentals are what I would work on, especially when I was really young. I would tag along to my brothers' practices. I have an older brother and a younger brother and I wanted to be just like them so I did everything they did. I think they kind of shaped me into the person I am. The Spun: One of your biggest performances lately was your 46-point game against Michigan. When you're in the middle of a game like that, what is going through your mind? Can you sense from opening tip that it's going to be a night like that? CC: I think when you start the game hot and see some shots go down, that's kind of when you can sense it and you take maybe a few shots that you wouldn't take if you hadn't made them, a few 'heat checks.' Sometimes I take a few 'heat checks' if I've made a couple of shots that if I hadn't made, [Iowa head] coach [Lisa] Bluder probably wouldn't let me take. But at the same time, even if I'm not making shots, I'm probably still going to keep shooting because that's what my team needs. That's just the type of player I am. But I think obviously I think you can sense it at the beginning of the night if you're really hitting them.

The Spun: Your team just clinched the Big Ten regular season for the first time since 2008. What does that accomplishment mean, and then looking ahead at the rest of the season, what are your goals and mentality for the rest of the year as a team?

CC: Obviously, it means a lot. We celebrate that and are proud of it. It took a lot of hard work; the Big Ten is loaded with great teams this year. We're going to enjoy every second of it, but we still have the Big Ten Tournament and we want to go and win that too and take that momentum into the NCAA Tournament. I think we're playing our best basketball right now and this is when you need to be playing your best basketball because March is coming and it's the best time of the year.

The Spun: That leads me right into our next question. Your team had a solid NCAA Tournament run last year, reaching the Sweet 16 before losing to UConn. What lessons did you and your team take from your first appearance in March Madness that you're hoping to take into 2022?

CC: Our team was pretty young. We had kind of a whole new starting five. I think having that experience under our belt is going to suit us well this year. Obviously, with COVID, there was no fans last year and it was kind of a weird year. But I think having that experience is going to really help us down the stretch here and obviously we want to go further than we did last year. I think we have the firepower to do that, especially if we play like we have been over the last couple of weeks.

The Spun: One last quick question: what is your favorite spot on the court to shoot from and why?

CC: Logo, duh [laughs].

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.