116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — The text came from Emily Ryan.
Iowa State’s record-breaking point guard reached out to all-time leading scorer Ashley Joens, hoping for an update.
Would Joens choose to return to the Cyclones for a fifth season, or decide to go pro?
Joens was leaning toward coming back — and Ryan’s earnest text helped cement her decision.
“She was just kind of asking where I was at, what I was thinking,” said Joens, who announced Monday she’d take advantage of a COVID-19-framed extra season of eligibility to return to ISU. “She was like, ‘I’d really like to play with you another year. I’d do anything to get to play with you another year.’”
Joens felt the same way, but first weighed her options with her parents after the Cyclones’ 76-68 Sweet 16 loss to Creighton in Greensboro, N.C. Once the decision was made, Joens spoke with the team Monday before announcing her return on Twitter. That was important to her — telling her teammates in person before any news broke.
“I just kind of told them how they were a big part of my decision and reason why I wanted to come back,” said Joens, who helped ISU post program records in wins (28) and conference triumphs (14) this season. “Just letting them know how special they all were and what they meant to me, and they were the reason I was coming back.”
Joens’s return makes the Cyclones one of the most loaded teams in the country. Ryan broke singe-game and single-season program assists records. Lexi Donarski is the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year. Talented post players Beatriz Jordao and Morgan Kane will be back — as will 6-foot-2 guard/forward Nyamer Diew, among others. ISU will likely be ranked in or near the top five nationally in preseason polls, so the excitement level coming off the program’s first Sweet 16 trip in 12 years will ratchet up even more.
“Just seeing our growth from last year to this year — and we have the same team returning,” said Joens, who averaged 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds this season. “So just understanding that in the offseason we can get a little better and continue to grow on the court and off the court as a team; just kind of understanding that we have more work that we can do and a lot more, I think, we can accomplish.”
Joens also will get to play one more season with her sister, Aubrey, who will be a junior.
“I’m excited to see her growth from this year to next year,” Ashley Joens said.
“Excited” is the operative word for the Cyclones as they delve into offseason workouts. No one fully knew if Joens would choose to come back, so hearing the news from her as the team assembled at the Sukup Basketball Complex prompted cheers and applause to echo through the theater room.
Especially from Ryan, who finally got the answer she hoped to receive.
“I didn’t want to break the news over text,” Joens said. “I wanted it to be more personal, so I wanted to do it for everybody at the same time."