John Van Nostrand: Hopefully more is to come and stay

Apr. 9—On the drive home from a heavy-snow-and-closed-roads trip that canceled our Colorado mountain plans after Christmas, I was station surfing on the radio and landed on an Iowa women's basketball game. Like many other sports fans across the country the past two seasons, I listened just to see what Catilin Clark would do during that game. (It made driving through Kansas easier. Before you think I'm rude, I have lived in Kansas. It's worse than Nebraska.)

Clark has done more than just set college scoring records and help send Iowa to two consecutive national championship games. She and others helped give more publicity (and things that come with it) to women's sports, and maybe to women.

Being in the newspaper industry for 30 years and at multiple places during my career, sports hasn't always been a required duty. I admit, I didn't go to girls' games when I was in high school. I knew many of those girls, but it just wasn't an interest. That changed during my first job. I covered the Arriba-Flagler, Colorado, High School volleyball team in the middle of a three consecutive trips to the state title match in their classification. The school is about two hours east of Denver. (The school, then, was probably similar in size and atmosphere to East Union.)

One of those years the girls won it all and I thought had everything a team needs to have to be title talking; height at the net, great serving and agile in the back court. That was when a volleyball team could only score when they served and it was the best-of-three matches to 15 for the win. A few of those matches were finished in less than an hour. It was a female team I will never forget.

Since I wasn't involved, or heavily involved, in sports at every paper I have been at, I was not able to see every girl player or teams during my career. I was honored to watch Creston's Doryn Paup on the basketball court her senior year where she also set some school records. If I ever write a book about my career, Doryn may go down as the best girls basketball player I've seen. I didn't cover either Fields girl.)

I regret not having watched 6-on-6 girls basketball in person. I think it's fantastic there are schools and organizations that play 6-on-6 as an occasional fundraiser event.

During the college women's basketball season, Clark was the reason why games sold out where she played and not just in Iowa City. It was regular to see a full, or even standing room only, press conference after games. One social media post included a picture of such a crowded press room. The attached comment included, in a paraphrase, how the interest in women's college basketball has drastically increased. I agreed with it, but hope it can continue in the future.

Regardless of who is playing, and how they play, I hope there are still enough sports reporters and cameras in three, five and seven years from now to make fans and reporters know there is still a strong following.

The best description I've heard of Clark is she is "generational." Someone of her talent and productivity will probably only be seen every 20-25 years. There is anticipation for Addie Deal, a shooter from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California, who is headed to Iowa next year. Considering the source, some say she is one of the best 20 players in the country. She visited Iowa the night Clark broke the college career scoring record.

I just hope a surge in interest in women's basketball, or maybe sports overall, doesn't have to wait until another Clark-like person plays. What Clark, Angel Reese at LSU, South Carolina, Connecticut and many others have done in the past four years has helped bring more attention to the sport and women in general. We can't expect that level of play every year. I think the men's games and quality changes by the year too. But we can at least continue the women's sport the same genuine interest and following as we had this year.

And it's a great reason to make me forget I'm driving through Kansas for a couple of hours.