Aces’ Alysha Clark named WNBA Sixth Player of the Year

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Alysha Clark averaged 13.5 points per game on 62.5% shooting during the regular season in coming off the bench in 38 of 39 games.

LAS VEGAS — When Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon started looking for critical pieces to build the right roster that could help defend the WNBA championship, she knew how special Alysha Clark would be, especially considering she’d never heard a bad word spoken about the veteran forward.

Forty-two games later, she couldn’t be more satisfied.

“She’s one of the best pros I’ve ever been around,” Hammon said Sunday after her Aces eliminated the Chicago Sky from the first round of the playoffs.

And, according to 35 members of a national panel of 60 sportswriters and broadcasters, the 12th-year vet has been one of the best pros they’ve seen play in the WNBA this season.

Clark was named Sixth Player of the Year on Monday.

“A.C. is a pro, like she does all the little things,” Aces teammate and MVP candidate A’ja Wilson said after Sunday’s win. “She speaks, she leads everything. We flow through A.C. Her energy is … another level now that we’ve added her to our team.”

Clark came into the season having started 75.8% of her regular-season appearances and 90.9% of her playoff appearances.

This year, she came off the bench in 38 of 39 regular-season games for the Aces.

In fact, the last time she was a reserve on the regular was the final 10 games of the 2014 season.

It’s a role Clark has relished in, and been having fun with while playing alongside one of the greatest WNBA rosters assembled in recent history.

“Part of me existing in this league as long as I have is just being adaptable,” Clark told The Sporting Tribune in June. “It’s been fun. Yeah, it’s a different look, but at the same time it’s what I’m used to, regardless if I’m in the first five or coming off the bench, I just want to make sure I make an impact when I’m out there.”

Which she’s certainly done.

Aces forward Alysha Clark (7) and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) battle for the ball in the second quarter during the Commissioner’s Cup. Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Clark, who came off the bench to score 13 and 14 points in the Aces’ two playoff wins over Chicago, has finished with double-figure scoring in 10 of the 39 games she appeared during the regular season.

Averaging 23.5 minutes for the Aces, Clark averaged 13.5 points per game on 62.5% shooting during the regular season.

But it’s been more than scoring with the 36-year-old. Considering Hammon likes to play small ball, fast and furious, and with defensive tenacity, Clark has fit the bill.

Whether she’s hitting a big shot, providing a spark on defense, being an able body in the post, a voice in the locker room, or an extension of the coaching staff to some extent, Hammon couldn’t be any happier with her offseason acquisition.

“She’s a phenomenal person, phenomenal teammate.,” Hammon said. “With her defensive skill set, her ability to shoot the three, the ability if they do switch … you can put her right down on the post and make defenses pay in different ways. But her leadership defensively, she’s always talking, she’s talking when she’s on the bench, she’s talking when she’s out on the floor and I just appreciate that because I think that’s an area that sometimes we had struggled in, just talking and communicating.”

For Wilson, her newest Sixth Player of the Year teammate has been a welcome addition for many aspects.

“I’ve learned so much off of A.C. a hundred percent of just how to handle yourself in the locker room,” Wilson said. “It’s been a blessing to honestly play by (her) because she takes a load off of me when it comes to just leading us and getting us in order. And at the end of the day, she’s knocking down shots, I’ve seen the work that she puts in, and just to reflect it over to the game. It’s just a true pro.

“We have fun, but when it’s ready to go locked in, A.C. is gonna be there for us. She is like our lock, she keeps us together, our glue.”

It marks the franchise’s fourth Sixth Player of the Year award since moving to Las Vegas, and over the past five seasons.

Dearica Hamby won the award in 2019 and 2020, and Kelsey Plum earned the honor in 2021.