How Pete Maravich’s son feels about Caitlin Clark closing in on his dad’s most hallowed record

Jaeson Maravich remembers stopping by his mom’s house last March while she was watching the women’s Final Four.

She asked if he’d seen “the girl from Iowa” who was terrorizing previously undefeated South Carolina.

Oblivious to women’s college basketball back then, Jaeson answered, “No, she any good?”

“She’s unbelievable,” his mom replied, prompting Jaeson to join her in front of the TV.

The rest of that game was Jaeson’s welcome-to-Caitlin-Clark moment, his introduction to Iowa’s incandescent star. Jaeson watched with admiration as Clark sliced through South Carolina’s formidable defense, tallying 41 points on an array of audaciously deep 3-pointers and dazzling drives to the rim.

As Clark has climbed college basketball’s career scoring leaderboard this season, Jaeson has made a point to catch a few games. He plans to tune in again this week when Clark takes aim at one of the few records left for her to chase, a hallowed mark that for decades has been a source of pride for Jaeson and his family.

LSU's Pete Maravich racked up 3,667 points in just three years at LSU. (Rich Clarkson/Getty Images)

LSU’s Pete Maravich racked up 3,667 points in just three years at LSU. (Rich Clarkson/Getty Images)
In 1970, Pete Maravich finished his LSU career as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,667 points, a mark that has seldom been challenged for 54 years. Clark is 50 points shy of matching the legendary Pistol Pete with two games left in the regular season, plus however many Big Ten and NCAA tournament games Iowa plays.

When Clark passes his late father, Jaeson hopes basketball fans will appreciate what she has achieved. He describes Clark as a “phenomenal talent” and “must-see TV.” He speaks with sincerity when he says, “I’ll be rooting for her and I’ll be happy for her when she does it.”

And yet Jaeson also bristles at the idea that Clark will supplant his father as college basketball’s rightful career scoring champion. The way Jaeson sees it, these are “two totally separate records” attained very differently.

Maravich played in an era when freshmen weren’t yet varsity-eligible. For three seasons, he averaged an unfathomable 44.2 points per game despite not having the benefit of a shot clock or 3-point line. By contrast, Clark has averaged 28.3 points per game in three-plus seasons at Iowa. She would need at least 128 games to match the number of points that Maravich scored in 83.

The comparisons get more murky when viewed through a different lens. Maravich hoisted 38 shots per game for an LSU team that finished .500 or better in all three of his seasons but never made the NCAA tournament. Clark has never attempted 38 shots in the same game and has averaged just under 20 shots per game for her career.

“The circumstances are so different that it’s hard to say it’s really the same record,” Jaeson said. “I don’t want to make it seem like I’m bashing her because I’m not. I just find it to be an apples-to-oranges comparison.”

Iowa's Caitlin Clark has two regular season games left and is 50 points shy of Pete Maravich's record. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark has two regular season games left and is 50 points shy of Pete Maravich’s record. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
In some ways, it’s fitting that Maravich and Clark are both atop the NCAA’s men’s and women’s all-time scoring lists. They’re both basketball folk heroes who have made a lasting impact on their sport, whether it’s Clark taking the women’s game to new heights or Maravich drawing standing-room-only crowds in SEC cities that previously cared little for basketball.

Basketball was an afterthought at LSU before Maravich brought his razzle-dazzle game to Baton Rouge in fall 1966. The legend of the kid with the shaggy hair and floppy socks spread so quickly that LSU’s freshman team often attracted more than twice as many fans to its games as the struggling varsity did.

With his dad as his coach and modest talent around him, Maravich had the freedom to shoot whenever he had the slightest opening. Press Maravich ran his entire offense through his son, from Pete leading a fast break, to Pete creating off the dribble, to Pete running around a flurry of screens to get an open look.

Decades later, opposing defenders told stories of giving up 40 points to Maravich and rejoicing at holding him below his average. They recalled falling victim to his array of no-look passes, through-the-legs dribbles and fall-away jump shots. They described road crowds erupting after every Maravich basket and opposing fans and cheerleaders mobbing him when the game was over.

“He was as great a showman as the game has ever seen,” former Auburn guard John Mengelt told Yahoo Sports. “He was going behind the back or through the legs during games before everybody else did that stuff. He was so entertaining that sometimes as an opposing player you’d literally get caught watching him.”

On Jan. 31, 1970, Maravich broke Oscar Robertson’s collegiate scoring record with a 23-foot jump shot. Two of his teammates hoisted him on their shoulders after he hit that shot while the LSU crowd applauded for more than five straight minutes and chanted “Pete! Pete! Pete!” Maravich entered that game against Ole Miss needing 40 points to overtake Robertson. He finished with 53.

Clark’s on-court exploits and showmanship are sometimes reminiscent of Maravich’s, as are the reactions that she inspires from fans.

By the end of her sophomore season, Clark couldn’t go to the grocery store or out for a meal without strangers gawking at her or asking for pictures or autographs. She made the mistake of thinking she could go unnoticed on campus the morning after a big win over Michigan, only to receive a shoutout from her marketing professor and a standing ovation from 300 classmates.

As Clark’s stature within her sport has grown, so has her fame. Clark’s Instagram following recently surpassed 1 million. She now turns away more endorsement offers than she accepts. Most games she plays, home or road, draw sellout crowds and record TV ratings. Fox recently created a “Caitlin Cam” that allowed hundreds of thousands of TikTok viewers to track her every move.

Tickets to Iowa’s home game against Michigan earlier this month were going for hundreds of dollars with Clark only eight points away from breaking Kelsey Plum’s NCAA women’s career scoring record. Clark made sure buyers got their money’s worth, erupting for a career-high 49 points and overtaking Plum with one of her signature impossibly deep 3-pointers.

While Clark’s ultimate goal is to lead fourth-ranked Iowa (23-3) to back-to-back Final Fours, she’s not done etching her name in the record books.

Clark soon will pass Lynette Woodard, who holds the AIAW major-college women’s scoring record with 3,649 points, set just before the dawning of the NCAA era. Then Clark can shoot for Maravich’s Division I NCAA scoring record.

For Jaeson Maravich, Clark’s pursuit of his dad’s mark will stir up conflicting emotions. He’s quick to point out that no college player has ever come close to scoring 3,667 points in three seasons, but he’s also happy that it’s “the girl from Iowa” poised to become the first player in more than five decades to surpass that storied number.

“I think my dad would have been a big fan of hers,” Jaeson said. “She’s just so much fun to watch.”

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