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Analysis | In Caitlin Clark, Pete Maravich has a studious and worthy heir


IOWA CITY — Back when Caitlin Clark was still a budding prodigy, before arriving at the University of Iowa and becoming a household name, his fast and fearless style led captivated observers to suggest he seek out images of a like-minded soul for inspiration.

“People always told me to watch ‘Pistol Pete,'” Clark mentioned casually in an interview last year. “I would do it a lot on YouTube. He’s probably the only guy I’ve really used on YouTube. I wasn’t a big YouTube watcher.

Such was the magnetic, enduring power of Pete Maravich and his endless range of trick shots, fake dribbles and pinpoint passes. Here is a hardwood ghost, who died 14 years before Clark was born, worthy of further study. Here is a scholar whose improvisation talents reappear in a flash when the 22-year-old goalkeeper leads Iowa’s frenzied attack.

Caitlin Clark breaks pre-NCAA scoring record set by Lynette Woodard

With Clark closing in on Maravich’s NCAA career record of 3,667 points, needing 18 points to pass it and his next game scheduled for Sunday against Ohio State, the first impulse might be to make some distinctions. Beyond gender, Maravich played at LSU from 1967 to 1970, when college basketball did not have a shot clock or three-point line and when many SEC teams were not racially integrated . Maravich, who averaged 44.2 points over three seasons, was not allowed to play on the varsity team as a freshman; Clark, a senior who averaged 28.3 points during her career, declared for the WNBA draft on Thursday but would have been eligible to play a fifth year next season due to the corona virus regulations.

These fundamental differences led one of Maravich’s sons tell Yahoo Sports that Maravich and Clark are making an “apples to oranges comparison.” But to present these stars as opposing forces would be to miss the essence of their common genius. There is a much more relevant culinary reference: two peas in a pod.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who played the game from one perspective: to entertain the fans,” Maravich said. “We are only here for a short time and I think it is very important to reach as many people as possible.”

Likewise, showmanship and connectedness have been hallmarks of Clark’s college career, which saw her guide to a top-five offense for four straight seasons, leading a run to last year’s NCAA title game, surpass Kelsey Plum as NCAA women’s leading scorer, eclipse Lynette Woodard as women’s all-time leading scorerand delighting a voracious fan base in his home state.

“I love winning, and it’s really fun,” Clark said shortly before his 2023 March Madness run. “People love to see us win. But I saw how much joy I was able to put on people’s faces and change some of their lives. It’s the coolest thing to me.

Maravich spoke about the magic of the open court in front of Magic Johnson and the ‘Showtime’ maestro did not hesitate to admit that he had stolen one of Pistol Pete’s signature passes: freezing the defense by moving his hand in a circular feint before quickly hitting the bouncing ball with an open palm toward a fast-breaking teammate. Although Maravich mastered the fundamentals, he shredded the playbook and left no angle unexplored, throwing underhanded passes, no-look plays to cutters and 50-foot bounce passes. The statue honoring him in Baton Rouge depicts Maravich throwing a behind-the-back pass, the bronze ball poised to roll delicately from his fingertips.

Playing for his father at LSU, Maravich enjoyed the greenest light a college player has ever seen. He averaged nearly 40 shots as a sophomore, scored a record 69 points against Alabama in 1970, and averaged more than a point per minute during his career. Last year, Antoine Davis fell four points short of surpassing Maravich’s career high — even though the Detroit Mercy guard averaged 25.4 points per game over five seasons while playing for his father.

The three seasons of Maravich represent the three highest averages in NCAA history, and his astonishing 44.5 points per game as a senior in 1969-70 should be considered one of the sport’s most unbreakable records. Denver’s Tommy Bruner is averaging 25.1 points to lead the nation this season, and no NCAA Division I men’s player has averaged more than 31 points since 1991. Absent dramatic changes in game length, shot clock, fundamental strategies or scoring rules – A four-point line? A five-point line? — Maravich’s points-per-game mark should last for decades.

For those too young to have seen Maravich for themselves, the YouTube videos that once caught Clark’s attention hold up remarkably well more than a half-century later. Clip after clip of him burying slick jumpers from all over the court, dribbling circles around outmatched defenders with both hands, and carrying himself with a confidence that led to pumping up crowds.

While her deep three-point shooting range is constantly compared to that of Stephen Curry, many of Clark’s most impressive plays make her look like the spitting image of Maravich. She launches quick attacks with bold outlet passes, bounces passes in traffic and targets post players with fastballs that fly right past her opponents’ ears.

Entire buildings lean forward in anticipation as Clark steams across half the field. As obstacles arise, she moves through them seemingly without a plan before easy baskets, for herself or a teammate, emerge as if out of nowhere. Like Maravich, she hits tough shots and stuffs the score so reliably that fans drive hours to experience a national phenomenon for themselves.

In some cases, the parallels between Maravich and Clark, who each won player of the year honors and multiple scoring titles in a single season in the NCAA, are uncanny. When Maravich passed Oscar Robertson to claim NCAA scoring record in 1970, he launched a jumper and was lifted off the court by his teammates. When Clark eclipsed Plum on February 15, she launched a jumper and, of course, was lifted off the court by her teammates. As photographers swarmed the jubilant and chaotic scenes, Maravich and Clark appeared worried when held aloft and relieved once back on the ground.

Closer inspection of the notable moments revealed differences so slight that they only further linked the two stars. Maravich scored 53 points on his record-breaking night; Clark finished with a career-high 49 after passing Plum in a win over Michigan. Both wore white uniforms, with Maravich’s number 23 being just one digit away from Clark’s number 22. Fans at the LSU Coliseum shouted “One more, one more!” as Maravich approached Robertson’s mark, while the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd chanted “One more year, one more year!” » to encourage Clark to delay the start of her WNBA career.

After leaving LSU, Maravich became a five-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, but career-altering injuries and a relative lack of playoff success kept him from being considered one of the league’s all-time greats. Although sometimes overlooked, Maravich, who died of sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 40 in 1988, has not been forgotten. He was selected as a member of the 50th NBA (1996) and 75th anniversary (2022) teams, and Clark’s teenage discovery of his work is proof that his legend endures, passed down from enthusiastic generation to enthusiastic generation.

Clark’s pursuit of Woodard’s AIAW-best 3,649 points was a great opportunity to celebrate the former Kansas star, whose Scoring prowess remains unrecognized by the NCAA. Along the same lines, Clark’s impending death of Maravich should not be seen as an act of displacement or erasure.

Instead, just imagine the timeless Tiger tossing one of his many discs behind his back to a studious and dignified heir.


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