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Ashley Joens makes early impression on new WNBA teammates with work ethic
Second-round draft pick out of Iowa State is ‘just a good overall player’
ARLINGTON, Texas — Ashley Joens has only been in Texas for a few weeks, but the second-round pick of Dallas in the 2023 WNBA Draft already is making a strong impression on her new teammates.
“I’ve seen a lot (so far). Her defense is phenomenal,” said Natasha Howard, a nine-year WNBA veteran and three-time league champion who was one of the Wings’ key veteran additions this offseason. “She’s quick. She’s just a good overall player. She’s coachable.”
Joens, 23, the 2023 Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 tournament Most Outstanding Player, admits she and her fellow rookies, who arrive at the Wings practice facility at 7 each morning, are doing their best impressions of sponges, absorbing all they can from their veteran teammates who have previously been in their shoes.
“It’s been really good getting an opportunity to be here, compete and learn from these vets. Arike (Ogunbowale), Natasha (Howard), and Diamond (DeShields) do an amazing job of helping direct (us) and giving little pointers,” Joens said. “They’re super easy to come to if you have a problem, need a little extra help, or want to know anything. It’s just a really great group.”
In 126 career games at ISU, Joens averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1 steal during her celebrated tenure. She credits that for preparing her well for the rigors of professional basketball and for what else might lie ahead in life.
“Yeah, I loved Iowa State, the team, the coaches, and think that helped me transition. They prepare you really well for continuing on past college playing-wise and as a person,” Joens said. “They teach you not necessarily all about basketball, but how to be a great person, a great teammate.
“That helps as you come into a professional team. You’re not always going to be playing 40 minutes, but you can be there, be supportive as a teammate and when you get your opportunity, take it, really soak everything up, and learn from your experiences.”
Dallas Wings have a new coach as well
Joens joins a Wings franchise in transition. Despite going 18-18 last season and making the playoffs, head coach Vickie Johnson was dismissed. Latricia Trammell, a former WNBA assistant and ex-college coach, takes over for the Wings, who also saw several franchise mainstays like Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison and Kayla Thornton depart during the offseason.
This is Trammell’s first stint as a WNBA head coach, but already she has made a strong impression on her squad.
“Her energy (is what stands out most),” Joens said. “It’s different. I’ve never had a coach so full of energy. Sometimes I think she’s about to jump in the drills herself. It makes everything so much fun and allows the team to have a lot of energy as well. We try and match her energy, and I think that’s what makes our practices so fun. Her energy is unmatched.”
Joens’ strong work ethic, something she’s been known for since her high school days in Iowa City, continues to impress her new coach, who had a good idea about what sort of player Dallas was drafting before the Wings used a second-round pick on her.
“Ashley, she’s just a true example of what hard work looks like. She’s a true example of hard work paying off,” Trammell said. “I had the pleasure of broadcasting a lot of her games the last two years in the Big 12 and just to see her growth level, being able to score at multiple levels (has been great).”
Trammell relayed how in practice one day, Joens was guarding Ogunbowale, the Wings’ top offensive player and a 2022 WNBA All-Star, a challenge the ex-Cyclone completely embraced.
“She (Joens) goes ‘Well, I just know that she’s the best and if I’m going to improve my skill set defensively, I’m going to have to defend her,’” Trammell said.
How Ashley Joens is adapting to the WNBA
Like every rookie, Joens calls the WNBA’s faster pace her biggest adjustment thus far but finds the game starting to slow down with each passing practice. And much like she’s done throughout her career, she finds herself doing whatever she can to help her team be successful.
“I’m just a really hard worker, so just going out and making the little plays (is what I do). I might not necessarily be the one shooting every time, but I can go out, defend, make it tough for the other team, compete, battle in there, rebound, just all around be a good teammate, be competitive, and not waste my opportunity,” she said.
At one of the Wings’ first practices, her teammates asked about her background, and she discussed working in her parents’ place, Joensy’s Restaurant in Iowa City, since age 8, starting out as a dishwasher and working her way up to waiting tables.
“That helped prepare me for competing basketball-wise. My parents always taught us nothing’s ever handed to you. You have to earn it,” Joens said. “My sisters and I had to earn the money we got and then buy our own phones, our own cars. That set the precedent so that when you step on the court with a new team even here, they’re not going to hand you a starting spot. You have to go out, earn it, and work for it.”
Joens’ love of food has even earned her some good-natured ribbing from her new teammates when dining out at local restaurants.
“Here, I’ve been trying to find different (places). I like to support local businesses because we’re a local business (at Joensy’s),” she said. “I’ve been trying to find local places here with different food and trying it. They (my teammates) make fun of me too because every restaurant we go to, I always ask what’s the most popular thing on your menu? What should I try? They always make fun of me for asking that. I just want to know.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas