Mission accomplished: MVP Clark embraces leadership role to spur USA to more gold
DEBRECEN (Hungary) - The United States were on cloud nine on Sunday evening in Debrecen with Caitlin Clark hoisting the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup trophy aloft to mark the completion of another golden mission.
Clark collected a third winner's medal on the international stage having been the sole player from the US's U19 winning squad in 2019 and previously helping the USA win the FIBA U16 Women's Americas Championship four years ago in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"Every time, it only gets better," a beaming Clark said after the post-game celebrations. "This is my third gold medal and doing it with a different team each time is special in itself. This team really came together, led by great coaches and to win it the way we did was pretty awesome."
Clark also took tournament MVP honors as she recorded a team-best 14.3 points per game along with 5.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. She handed out 8 assists on three different occasions, whilst scoring a best of 24 points in the Group Phase win over Australia.
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Sonia Citron joined Clark in the All-Star Five lineup, with the 185cm (6'1") guard also having put together a strong candidacy for the MVP award. There were several other key contributions throughout the USA roster as they swept through the field to continue their dominance at the event.
Clark was quick to heap praise onto her teammates and highlighted the way they came together and put on a show on the court with their entertaining style of basketball.
"Obviously it's an honor [to be MVP], but it wouldn't have happened without my teammates. I think there could have been multiple girls on this team that could have got the MVP award.
"I think the biggest thing for me was just leadership. I'd played the U19 World Cup before so I was trying to bring that experience and lead them in that way.
"The chemistry on this team is what made it so fun. The way we move the ball, the way we share the ball, that's what made this so memorable and so special to be a part of. We knew that if our defense was there, we would be unstoppable and everything else flowed from there."
Winning was the only option with the USA locked in throughout the week as they went unbeaten through seven games here in Debrecen to take their recent event record to 61 wins and just three defeats - including the 2017 Final - since taking bronze 20 years ago.
The team united with the same goal in mind and did so by putting in the work and having fun in the process. And, that is what made the success even sweeter for Clark and her teammates.
"Learning from the coaching staff was the biggest thing for me," she said. "Coach Cori [Close] is a super motivational person and always is telling us to have a purpose - teamwork, toughness.
"We were coming in with that mindset of just getting better every rep. We didn’t take a single rep off since being together.
"We did it as a team. That’s the biggest thing, you can accomplish anything - even if people don’t think you can. We came together and we won gold."
Clark arrived at this tournament fresh off a stellar first year at the University of Iowa, earning national recognition for major individual accolades alongside Paige Bueckers - who Clark now joins on the list of MVP winners at the U19 Women's World Cup.
The Iowa native now returns to the Hawkeye State for her sophomore year with the five-star recruit averaging 26.6 points per game last season. Clark has now tasted more international success and hopes that is just the start of her journey representing the red, white and blue.
"I want to have more and more experiences of playing for the USA on the international stage.
"I still have three more years at college so I want to keep growing and developing my game at Iowa and then eventually become a pro - that's my dream and I think every girl here probably has the same dream."