Our digital anxiety is often linked to the bevy of notifications and alerts constantly gracing our screens, none more so than the dreaded Can we talk?
When Alysha Clark received this message from WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, while sitting on a treatment table between her Las Vegas Aces’ teammates Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray, she knew what was going on.
“Obviously, when Cathy texts you or wants to talk and it’s the end [of the season], you kind of have an idea of what’s about to happen,” Clark told Winsidr. “So, I was like, oh my god.”
Over the phone, Engelbert delivered Clark the news that she had been named this season’s Sixth Player of the Year, receiving 35 out of 60 media votes.
“As soon as [Cathy] officially said it to me, I immediately burst out in tears,” Clark said. “Just a slew of emotions, from my journey in this league, wishing I could call my dad and tell him, to being in that moment like holy s**t, this is real. I was overcome with so much emotion and started crying.”
With Clark’s emotion at winning the award obvious, her teammates checked in. Sitting next to her was Gray, the first to inquire. “Are you OK? AC, you good?”
“I’m good, I’m good,” Clark said, trying to keep the news to herself.
“No, you good?” Gray followed, seeing the tears stream down her teammate’s face.
Clark knew she had to reassure her that everything was all right. “I promise, it’s a good cry,” she told Gray.
“A good cry? Oh s**t!” Gray jumped up off the treatment table, knowing the meaning behind Clark’s happy tears. As others looked on, they, too, figured out the cause for celebration. Everyone joined in, showering her with love in the moment.
The secret didn’t go to plan. But how could it?
“For me, that was special,” Clark said. “Because I want to celebrate that with them, and I was happy I got to in the moment. It made it even more special, how excited everyone was. Becky [Hammon] came walking in, and she was like, well, I guess you didn’t keep it in, and I said I trust them. I wanted to celebrate with them, and it made that moment even sweeter. Being around people that feel like family, to be able to celebrate such news, it’s a moment I won’t forget, for sure.”
The Sixth Player of the Year award, designed to honor a player for their contributions in a reserve role, would be publicly announced a few days later, as the defending champions made their way into the semifinals of this year’s playoffs.
Clark signed with Las Vegas during the offseason. She has served as the first player off the bench for the Aces, filling in wherever the team needed her. To begin the season, she came off the bench for Candace Parker. With Parker currently out due to injury, Clark comes off the bench in place of Young, Kiah Stokes, or generally wherever the lineup dictates in the moment.
Outside of her first two seasons in the WNBA, Clark has normally been a starter, beginning with her seven years as a starter with Seattle, as well as last season in Washington. Las Vegas needed someone to serve in what is now Clark’s role, and she has fully embraced the new situation.
“For me, I don’t care if I’m starting or coming off the bench,” Clark said. “If I’m playing 25 minutes, I’m playing 25 minutes. It doesn’t matter where within the game that happens.”
In her 11th season in the W, Clark brings another veteran presence both in the locker room and on the floor for a title contender. Her experience and tenacity have brought an immediate impact to Las Vegas.
“It’s just exciting,” Gray told Winsidr when asked about Clark receiving the award. “Her journey, her being here. She’s huge for us. And I’m so glad that she was able to get some flowers this season and enjoy that moment because she’s huge. There have been times throughout her career when awards hadn’t come her way, and I’m glad she’s doing it in an Aces uniform, and we were able to celebrate that for her.
“I know it’s also huge [because]of her dad being proud of what she’s been able to accomplish here in Vegas, [playing]with so much joy and freedom. It makes you lighter out there on the court when you have a team behind you that supports you, that’s huge. I’m glad she was able to win that award, and rightfully so.”
Duane Clark passed away in September 2022 at age 73. Alysha continues on with her late father in mind, knowing how proud he would be of all she has accomplished in Las Vegas, including being named Sixth Player of the Year.
Throughout the regular season, she averaged 22.5 minutes per game, coming off the bench in all but one of her 39 games played. As the first player off the bench in Las Vegas, she is often tasked with guarding a main scoring threat. She averaged 6.7 points per game (PPG) and 3.4 rebounds per game (RPG) while shooting 38.6 percent from three on 3.4 three-point attempts (3PA) per game. So far in the playoffs, she is averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.3 RPG, shooting 41.7 percent from three on 3.0 3PA per game.
Now, Clark looks ahead as a key contributor in the Aces run toward the team’s second consecutive title. And she’ll always remember the moment she received the news that she was named the WNBA’s Sixth Player of the Year. Her teammates will, too.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 24, 2023
Stats as of September 29, 2023 and, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of WNBA.com.