AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly doesn’t have to look up to know who’s in the gym when he’s in his office and he hears the ball bouncing early in the morning.
It’s the same person who is roommates with Iowa State guard Emily Durr. Durr oftentimes can’t find her when she wakes up for her 8 a.m. classes.
“I’m here a lot, my wife likes it when I’m here a lot,” Fennelly said. “And when I’m in here there aren’t very many times when I don’t hear a ball bouncing. I know it’s No. 21 on the gun or No. 21 down here shooting free throws.”
No. 21 is junior Bridget Carleton, who Fennelly repeatedly called Iowa State’s hardest worker during Tuesday’s media day.
Carleton averaged 15 points per game last season, which was second on the team behind Seanna Johnson who graduated after last season. Carleton also pulled down 5.7 rebounds per game, also good for second, and had the third most assists on the team with 1.8.
“I wouldn’t trade Bridget Carleton for any player in the country — and I mean that. Every coach probably says that, but Bridget is the leader of our team,” Fennelly said. “The thing about Bridget that I like the most — every coach will tell you the same thing — when your best player is your hardest worker, you have a chance. And it’s not even close.
“Bridget Carleton is the best player on this team, she’s the hardest worker on this team, and it’s not an accident she’s in the gym all the time.”
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Fennelly and the Cyclones have a young basketball team with five newcomers. Carleton’s work ethic and leadership will be vital to the young group.
“I want to be a leader this year, it’s my third year,” Carleton said. “I know what it takes to play at the Big 12 level, to play for Iowa State and to play for coach Fennelly. So just helping the younger kids because they’re going to be huge for us since we’re a younger team.”
Freshman forward Madison Wise has seen Carleton’s help first hand.
Carleton will text the Greenfield, Ind., native to make sure to get in the gym. But Carleton isn’t necessarily the vocal leader of the team. That title goes to the lone-returning senior on the team, Emily Durr.
“Bridget’s always working hard, so that makes us want to work hard at all times,” Wise said. “Emily leading vocally is really important. She’s telling us where to go, when to set a screen or when to backdoor cut or whatever.”
Durr averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season. But statistics aren’t what motivates her, she could not care less about them.
“[Leadership] is probably what I take the most pride in,” Durr said. “Not statistics or points or rebounds, I think being known as a leader is really humbling and really exciting.”
What Durr and Carleton do as team-leaders will be vital to Iowa State’s success.
But it’ll be up to Carleton to see how far the Cyclones can go.
“I want to be the best I can for this team for the next two years,” Carleton said. “And then down the road, hopefully be on the [Canadian] Olympic team in 2020 is my ultimate goal.”
Carleton made the 2017 world team for Team Canada, which won the FIBA World Cup. She was one of three collegiate players on the team.
The rest of them all played in the WNBA or professionally overseas.
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This season, Carleton has worked on creating her own shots more, instead of being a spot-up shooter like she was previously. The 6-foot-1 Carleton also worked on finishing at the rim and her pullup game.
Fennelly said Carleton has a chance to go down as one of the best Iowa State women’s basketball players of all time.
“She’s going to have a career that rivals a lot of great players here,” Fennelly said. “We’re just really lucky to have her and lucky that she has two years left to play.”
“She’s definitely the greatest player I’ve played with,” Durr said. “I think she can take us really far. We want to make the tournament and we want to make a deep run in the tournament. She could take us anywhere she wants to take us, and we’re all on board.”