AMES — Iowa City native Ashley Joens has only been at Iowa State one semester and she’s only played seven Division I games.
But her growth as a basketball player has been marked.
Coming out of Iowa City High, Joens was a pure scorer, averaging over 30 points per game. Now, as she and her Iowa State (6-1) teammates return to Joens’ home town to play No. 16 Iowa (5-2) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Joens returns as a much more complete player.
“I think she’s been very good,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Very good. Like most young players she’s learning how to defend, she’s learning how to do things besides score. She came out of high school and she scored. That was it. She didn’t guard anyone because don’t foul. She didn’t pass to anyone because why would you? She didn’t even pass to her sister.
“When you get to this level and your shot’s not falling, you have to be able to impact the game in other ways.”
Don’t get it twisted, Joens is still scoring and she’s still good at it. She’s Iowa State’s second-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game. Her season-high came against Auburnm when she made five 3-pointers and scored 18 points. To go with her scoring, she’s averaged 4.1 rebounds, the third most on the team and is fourth on the team in blocks with three.
“(I’ve) made a lot of growth,” Joens said. “To be able to play with really good players like Bridget (Carleton) and Alexa (Middleton) and all of them, it’s really fun to play with all of them. They’re very helpful in telling me what I need to do. To be able to learn from them has helped a lot.”
Is Fennelly worried about having to get Jones’ emotions in check because she’s playing in front of her hometown crowd in the Cy-Hawk series for the first time?
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“I don’t know that you have to (tone Ashely Joens’ emotions down),” Fennelly said. “She is such a flat-line kid. If you’ve been around her, she’s pretty low key. She is an old-school basketball player. She just wants to play. Obviously playing in this game is important. It’s in her home town and all that stuff. The uniqueness of it is, I don’t think she’s going to get crazy about it. I might be wrong, she might go out there and just absolutely — I don’t know. I just don’t see it with her. That’s not her personality.
“One of the games the other day, I think she was 0-for-5 and we took her out and (assistant coach) Billy (Fennelly) was sitting next to her and said, ‘Hey, you’ll make the next one.’ And she goes, ‘I know.’ It just doesn’t bother her. She’ll impact this series for four years and hopefully she gets off to a good start.”
Joens credits her advanced maturity to her upbringing. She said growing up with all sisters, they were always taught to prove it instead of talk about it.
This is the second homecoming for an Iowa State player this season. On Nov. 21, Iowa State traveled to Chatham, Ontario, Canada to play in front of Bridget Carleton’s hometown fans against Eastern Michigan, a game Iowa State won 85-59.
“With Bridget, I talked to her a lot more about going to Canada and all of the stuff that went around it,” Fennelly said. “I just don’t think it bothers (Joens). (Carver-Hawkeye) has a 94-foot court and there are two baskets. That’s all she cares about.”
Joens isn’t a perfect basketball player by any means. She’s shooting 42 percent from the field and only has two assists on the season. But Fennelly likes what she’s about.
“Overall, she’s starting and playing 30 minutes a game on a team that’s decent,” Fennelly said. “I’m very proud of her so far. The good news for her and for us is that wherever she is now, is nothing compared to where she will be because she works hard.”
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