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Michael VoepelESPN.comSeptember 18, 2023, 12:06 pm Eastern Time3 minute read

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

“I would be beaming with pride right now,” said Clark, who was announced as the winner Monday. “That’s the part that was difficult after finding out: I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him: ‘We finally have one.’ He would be very happy, because he’s seen my journey through this league, he’s been constantly in my ear telling me how valuable that 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 she won her first individual league award in her 11th season in the WNBA. Clark played in 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 earned 35 of 60 votes from a national media panel. Connecticut Sun guard and 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 a free agent with the Aces in February and has played a pivotal role for the defending champions.

“She’s a phenomenal person, a phenomenal teammate,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “I just told her, ‘You know I really like to play small,’ and she fit the bill with her defensive skill set, her ability to shoot 3-pointers. Her leadership on defense — she’s always talking, when she’s on the field. “On the bench or on the floor. I appreciate it because some of the best defenses are never quiet. They are talking all the time. “So we love her.”

The 5-foot-11 Clark finished as Division I women’s basketball’s leading scorer while being an undersized post player as a junior and senior for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in 2009 and 2010. She was drafted in WNBA second round at 17th overall. for San Antonio, but she did not make the league’s roster until 2012 with Seattle.

Once in the WNBA, she became one of the most versatile defensive players in the league. After two seasons on the bench, she became a starter for the Storm from 2014 to 2020, winning WNBA championships in 2018 and 2020. She was named to the WNBA 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 his right foot. He started last season for the Mystics and then came to Las Vegas. Despite being a starter for nearly a decade, Clark accepted the reserve role that Hammon said would mean a lot to the Aces.

“For players like me, you do whatever it takes,” 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 accept a role. Because your peers, your teammates and the league respect you 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 professional; our energy is on another level now that we’ve added her to the team,” said Aces forward A’ja Wilson. “She takes the burden off me when it comes to guiding us and putting us in order. She keeps us together. I’ve learned a lot from AC.”

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