Aces’ Alysha Clark named WNBA Sixth Player of Year

Michael Voepel, ESPN.comSep 18, 2023, 12:06 PM ET

CloseMichael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Las Vegas Aces forward Alysha Clark said she knows how her late father would have reacted upon hearing she was named the WNBA’s Sixth Player of the Year.

“He would be beaming with pride right now,” said Clark, who was announced as the winner Monday. “That’s the part that was hard after finding out: I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him, ‘We finally got one.’ He would be so happy, because he’s seen my journey through this league, he’s constantly been in my ear telling me how valuable I am.”

Duane Clark died in September 2022 at age 73. A year later, Alysha is in the semifinals with the top-seeded Aces and won her first individual league award in her 11th season in the WNBA. Clark played 39 regular-season games this season — coming off the bench for 38 — and averaged 6.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists.

Clark got 35 of 60 votes from a national media panel. Connecticut Sun guard/forward DiJonai Carrington was second with 13 votes, and Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans was third with nine. Dallas Wings center Kalani Brown, New York Liberty guard Marine Johannes and Seattle Storm guard Sami Whitcomb each received one vote.

Clark, 36, signed as free agent with the Aces in February and has filled a critical role for the defending champions.

“She’s a phenomenal person, phenomenal teammate,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “I just said to her, ‘You know I like to play small a lot,’ and she just fit the bill with her defensive skill set, ability to shoot the 3. Her leadership defensively — she’s always talking, when she’s on the bench or on the floor. I appreciate that because some of the best defensives, they’re never quiet. They’re talking all the time. So we love her.”

The 5-foot-11 Clark finished as a Division I women’s basketball’s leading scorer while an undersized post player as a junior and senior for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in 2009 and 2010. She was drafted in the WNBA’s second round at No. 17 overall by San Antonio, but didn’t make a league roster until 2012 with Seattle.

Once in the WNBA, she transformed herself into one of the league’s most versatile defensive players. After two seasons on the bench, she became a Storm starter from 2014 to 2020, winning WNBA championships in 2018 and 2020. She was named to the WNBA’s all-defensive second team in 2019 and the first team in 2020.

Clark signed as a free agent with Washington in 2021, but missed that season with a Lisfranc injury to her right foot. She started last season for the Mystics, then came to Las Vegas. Despite having been a starter for nearly a decade, Clark embraced the reserve role that Hammon said would mean so much to the Aces.

“For players like me, you kind of do whatever is needed,” Clark said. “Show up consistently. You don’t have to be the top 1% to be appreciated in this league. I hope it can inspire other players to come in and be OK with accepting a role. Because your peers, your teammates and league respects you in that way.”

In the Aces’ 2-0 first-round series victory over Chicago that concluded Sunday, Clark had a combined 27 points and 10 rebounds.

“AC is a true pro — our energy is at another level now that we’ve added her to the team,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said. “She takes the load off me when it comes to leading us, getting us in order. She keeps us together. I’ve learned so much from AC.”

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