Chasing Records: Clark and Beyer | God's World News

Chasing Records: Clark and Beyer

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    University of Iowa coach Lisa Bluder and associate head coach Jan Jensen congratulate Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) during the second half of a game on February 15, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP/Matthew Putney)
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    University Health Sciences and Pharmacy guard Grace Beyer holds a ball and plaque as her All-American achievement is honored following an game against Cottey College on February 22, 2024, in St. Louis. (AP/Jeff Le)
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Caitlin Clark of the University of Iowa has extended her NCAA career scoring record in women’s basketball to 3,617 points. Now she’s just 33 points away from breaking a big college scoring record. But she’ll be hard-pressed to catch the most prolific active scorer in her sport: small-school phenom Grace Beyer.

Clark plays before packed houses and a national audience on television. She is approaching Lynette Woodard’s record. Woodard, a former University of Kansas star, scored 3,649 points from 1977-81. That’s an unofficial record for women’s basketball in what now constitutes the NCAA’s Division I. (When Woodard was playing, the NCAA was not the governing body over women’s college sports.)

On Sunday, Clark finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists—her fifth triple double of the season. (A triple double is a single-game performance in which a player holds double-digit scores in three different statistical categories.)

That same night, several hundred people sat on retractable bleachers to watch Beyer set an even higher record as she scored 40 points for the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy, a small private school in St. Louis, Missouri.

Beyer’s performance pushed her career total to 3,874 points—257 ahead of Clark. It also secures fifth place in college basketball history for Beyer. That’s men or women, NCAA or NAIA, regardless of division.

The contrast between the two is stark.

Clark has become perhaps the most bankable star in the history of the women’s college game. Fans line up for hours to watch her sink those incredible 30-foot three-pointers. Clark has been able to monetize her fame. She pops up in ads for everything from State Farm Insurance to supermarket chain Hy-Vee.

Like Clark, Beyer grew up with a basketball in her hands. She put up thousands of shots at the local YMCA before and after school. And just like Clark, Division I coaches came calling.

But that’s where Clark and Beyer diverged.

Beyer’s grandfather lived with her family as she grew up. As he aged, he began having trouble managing his medications. Beyer learned everything she could about the drugs and how they interacted. That created a desire to study pharmacy, which typically requires rigorous academic training.

Many coaches tried to recruit Beyer, including several from Division I schools. But they thought there was no way Beyer could juggle pharmacy and basketball. So the phone calls, text messages, and interest dried up.

Beyer’s parents “urged me to prepare for the 40 years of my life rather than the four years of college,” she says. “It’s kind of a big concept to grasp when you’re in high school. But I just knew that I wanted to be happy and have a career in something I’m going to enjoy. And basketball? I’ll enjoy that wherever I play.”

Beyer chose the small University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy. There are no chartered planes, no special tutors—nothing approaching what a Division I college can offer.

“I definitely don’t have any regrets coming here,” Beyer says. “But everyone has those what-if thoughts, you know? What it would have been like if I went to a bigger school.”

With Beyer leading the way, her school began winning games. The few dozen fans that showed up to watch turned into a few hundred. People began calling the school to ask when Beyer would play next.

As the wins mounted, so did her scoring total—often in chunks of 40 or more points at a time.

Beyer had a career-high of 59 points in a game last year. Earlier this season, the 5-foot-8 guard scored 51 in a game. In all, Beyer has averaged more than 34 points per game over her final season of college basketball, while also leading her team in rebounds, steals, and assists.

At her current pace, Beyer needs six postseason games to chase down the women’s all-college scoring record. That was set by Pearl Moore with 4,061 points.

Clark needs 33 points heading into a February 28 game to break Lynette Woodard’s scoring record—one that Beyer passed 225 points ago.

Beyer continues to watch Clark chase her own milestones from afar. And she’s apparently a fan of the Iowa player. “It’s amazing,” Beyer says with a smile, “to be mentioned in the same breath as her.”

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13-14