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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES - At the end of last season, Iowa State women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly had individual meetings with each of his players.
When he called former Iowa City High prep Ashley Joens into his office, he handed her a sheet of paper. On one side was Joens' season statistics. On the other: Bridget Carleton's stats as a freshman.
They were nearly identical.
Joens averaged 11.7 points on 43 percent shooting, grabbed five rebounds per game and had 0.7 assists.
Carleton, as a freshman, averaged 12 points per game on 33 percent shooting, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
'When I had my individual meetings at the end of last year, my meeting with her was, ‘If the highlight of your career at Iowa State is that you made the all-freshman team, then you didn't do your job and I didn't do my job,'” Fennelly said. 'The difference of the two sides is on the bottom of Bridget's, it had Big 12 Player of the Year, Cheryl Miller award - there were a lot of honors on the bottom of her page that she led to as a senior.
'We need Ashley to think that way. Her game is not dissimilar to Bridget's. Hopefully she grows into accepting that responsibility.”
Replacing Carleton and the entire senior class will be a challenge for Fennelly and Iowa State.
He called it 'maybe the best senior class I had ever coached.” And he's been coaching at Iowa State for 25 seasons.
'I don't know that you do (replace Carleton),” Fennelly said. 'You don't lose a player, person or leader like Bridget and say, ‘You're next.' When she's the only one to have ever done it in my time here. What it comes down to is, the players who benefited from playing with Bridget last year - Kristin (Scott), Maddie (Wise), Ashley, Adriana (Camber) – they have to play better and go from being role players to players you can count on a daily basis.”
What made Carleton special was her work ethic.
'It wasn't an accident that when everyone came to practice, Bridget was already here,” Fennelly said. 'And it wasn't an accident that when everyone left after practice, Bridget was still here.”
That showed Joens the hours she needed to put in to help replace some of Carleton's production.
'Being able to see what she did and how closely similar our numbers were - it shows how hard you have to work to get to where I want to go,” Joens said. 'To know that I can go down that same path if I work as hard as her and put in the same hours that she did is exciting.”
Joens has a clear vision of what she needs to do to step up her game, and it's what made Carleton stand out: becoming a facilitator.
As a senior, Carleton averaged 4.0 assists per game, second on the team behind Alexa Middleton, who also graduated.
It wasn't Joens' role last season to be a facilitator, but Fennelly said there are times this season where Joens will be the point guard.
'I want to be more of a scorer and help create open looks for my teammates as well,” Joens said. 'I want to be more of a facilitator and get my shots at different levels, not just being a shooter.”
Joens becoming a primary scoring threat on all three levels - 3-point range, mid-range and at the rim - will open up her teammates, similar to how Carleton opened up Joens last season.
Last year, Joens was mostly used as a spot-up 3-point shooter, but she showed flashes of the player she hopes to be with some nice drives and finishes at the rim.
'Ashley has to have a really good year,” Fennelly said. 'She's had a really good start to practice. She's been phenomenal in practice. Hopefully she's one we can count on.”
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