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Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard talks tennis, CyTown as Tailgate Tour kicks off in Paton
CyTown construction is underway
PATON — Call it outlandish, implausible or a borderline miracle.
Just don’t call Iowa State women’s tennis rising to elite status “impossible.”
Not anymore, anyway.
“If you would have asked me 18 years ago, ‘What’s impossible?’ — that might have been on the list,” ISU director of athletics Jamie Pollard said Monday during the first stop of Cyclone sports’ two-week Tailgate Tour. “So there’s a valuable lesson there, probably, that nothing’s impossible.”
Pollard and a handful of ISU coaches spoke about an array of department-related topics on Main Street in Paton — including the tennis team’s journey to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in program history. The No. 12 Cyclones will face fourth-ranked North Carolina State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.
⧉ Related article: Iowa State advances to first-ever NCAA women’s tennis quarterfinals: ‘We’d might as well make a run at the whole darn thing’
“What (ISU head coach Boomer Saia) has done has proven it’s about people,” Pollard said.
It’s also about bricks and mortar.
CyTown construction is underway
Pollard said construction of CyTown — ISU’s $200 million “landmark educational, cultural and athletic complex” situated around Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum — began about eight weeks ago.
“We broke ground probably a year, or a year and a half sooner than we thought when we started all this, and then there was COVID in there, too,” Pollard said. “So the interest has been really strong. It’s just you’ve got to do all the infrastructure first.”
Iowa State NIL collectives making an impact
NIL collectives have also become part of the economic infrastructure for Cyclone athletics as well as all major programs across the country. The “We Will Collective” continues to grow, offering opportunities to athletes of all sports to be compensated for serving the community. ISU’s wrestling program now has its own collective, as well.
“I’m excited about our folks,” Cyclone head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser said. “We got a bunch of people that kind of spearheaded (it) out of the Okoboji area and this gives us a chance to give our athletes some opportunities. We’ve got some big-time athletes. We’ve got some big-time recruits, so now these guys are gonna be able to go out and do a little work and make some money, and that’s the college way right now.”
Dresser’s program got deeper last week when one of the nation’s top recruits, Cody Chittum, flipped his commitment from Iowa to ISU.
“Hard to do better than that,” Dresser said. “I think he’s really excited. Talking with his family and talking to him, he’s really excited about getting to Ames. I mean, he took an obviously unusual path in that he deduced to take a gray-shirt year in Iowa City, which is a really unusual path to get to Ames, but hey, sometimes weird (stuff) happens and you’ve gotta roll with it. We’re excited that he’s here and he’ll train with the team all summer long. He’s enrolled in summer school and we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Cyclones ‘really excited’ about women’s basketball transfers
Head men’s basketball coach T.J. Ozelberger and head women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly could not attend because of Big 12 meetings. They’ll meet with fans on future Tailgate Tour stops. Women’s basketball associate head coach Jodi Steyer appeared in Fennelly’s stead and talked about recent program additions Hannah Belanger, a former Division II All-American at Truman State, and Isnelle Natabou, a talented 6-5 post player who transferred in from Sacramento State. Belanger shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season. Natabou averaged 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds last season.
“We’re really excited about them,” said Steyer, who also helped the Cyclones attract a top-10 class of freshmen for the 2023-24 season. “Hannah was the first one and her background — yeah, it’s D-II, but there are all kinds of stories of (how she’s) successful and the competition that she is. Her skill level and shooting the 3-ball, I thought she fit us great. And Isnelle, just to get a big with that experience and that skill level, that was huge.”
Natabou can also help mentor highly-touted freshman-to-be Audi Crooks in her first season at ISU, as well. So can former Cyclones and first round WNBA Draft pick Stephanie Soares, who will be around the team as she continues to rehabilitate a torn ACL.
“Just the experience that Audi will be able to draw from there, I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” Steyer said.