AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly jokes that true freshman Ashley Joens will have more points scored that words spoken.
Joens, a former Iowa City High star, is shy and soft-spoken, but she has a knack for putting the ball through the hoop.
“She doesn’t say much,” Fennelly said. “You say something to her and she nods — she’ll say ‘yes’ once in a while. I think she’s very businesslike when it comes to basketball. When it comes to her mind and basketball, chit-chatting is not part of the game.”
Joens will have a big impact on the Cyclones from day one. Fennelly said last season Iowa State had one, maybe 1 1/2 scorers. That one was senior Bridget Carleton and the half was whoever had a good game that night.
The 6-foot Joens, Miss Iowa Basketball in 2018, will ease some of the scoring load off Carleton.
“I told her, ‘I’m not going to treat you like a freshman,’” Fennelly said. “Obviously, her initial thing is to go out and score, but we want her to be a really good defender, use her size and length to go rebound — we want her to be a great basketball player, and I think she wants to be. I think she’s a big piece of what we’re doing, she’s a big piece of what we’re going to do in the future.”
Fennelly told Joens to attach herself to Carleton and do everything she does. Carleton is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 player and honorable mention AP All-America.
“Do what Bridget does, act like Bridget acts,” Fennelly said. “(Joens) is someone who is going to have a big role as a freshman, she’s someone whose game is going to develop. Bridget, like most freshmen, couldn’t spell defense when she got here and now she’s arguably our best defender. Ashley is kind of struggling with that, too. When you’re in high school, they tell you, ‘Just don’t foul, keep scoring.’ They have to stay in the game. She’ll get better.
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“We all want role models, we all want people to look up to and emulate. If Ashley Joens turns out and acts like and becomes the kind of impactful person on our campus as Bridget is now, then she did the right thing.”
Joens started hanging around Carleton last year.
“Last fall, my younger sisters would have tournaments over here and so I’d come to the gym with Bridget and get to know her and play with her and figure out what she does that I can do,” Joens said.
Joens, like Carleton has a reputation as a 3-point marksman, but they can both score in a variety of ways.
“The No. 1 thing I would say is because of the rules, (Joens) is going to get to the free-throw line a lot,” Fennelly said. “We had one game in Costa Rica, I think she shot 20 free throws. When you get into our game, after the fifth foul, everything is two shots. And as a guard, she can go offensive rebound. You think of her playing against someone 3 inches shorter trying to guard her, we’ll post her up, we’ll let her drive to the basket.
“For her, make 3s, get to the free throw line and get offensive rebounds — if she can do those three things on a consistent basis, which I think she can, she’s going to score more than her fair share of points.”
The similarities between Joens and Carleton are eerie. Both are wired to score, both needed to improve defensively as freshmen and both weren’t too keen on talking.
“I see myself in her,” Carleton said. “She’s shy, soft-spoken as a freshman. But she’ll grow out of it, for sure. She’ll start talking more. Her versatility, her height — she loves the game of basketball and she works hard at it.”
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