AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly got the award he spent the whole season campaigning for.
Senior guard Bridget Carleton was named the Big 12 player of the year, becoming the first Iowa State player to receive the award.
On Saturday in Oklahoma City, No. 2-seed Iowa State (23-7, 13-5), with its newly minted Big 12 Player of the Year, will play Oklahoma State or Kansas in the first round of the Big 12 tournament at 6 p.m.
“I didn’t know they were all that smart,” Fennelly said jokingly of his fellow Big 12 coaches. “I don’t know how you could say Bridget didn’t deserve it — whatever measure you want to put out there. Team success, team improvement — we’re a team that was picked sixth and finished second — all her numbers are ridiculous and off the chart. I think it says a lot about Bridget that when I told her, it was initially all about her teammates, and she means it. It’s not phony with her.”
Carleton finished the season ranked in the top five in the conference in all five major statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks — including leading the conference in scoring and steals.
Carleton was truly the best all-around player in the Big 12.
Like Fennelly said, Carleton gave credit to her teammates.
“They loved it,” Carleton said. “They are just as excited about it as I am. They know they were a huge part of it, too. I don’t get that award if we’re not second in the league. I told them, ‘it’s not just my award, it’s something we can all celebrate together.’”
They’re taking that to heart. Fellow senior Meredith Burkhall said Carleton winning the award was, “the cherry on top of our careers.”
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Sophomore forward Kristin Scott is also guilty of saying “we” when referring to the individual award, but that’s the kind of team Iowa State is.
Fennelly has said this season that it’s rare a player as individually talented as Carleton is so well liked by her teammates. He said usually some jealousy creeps in, but not on this team.
“We were all so happy for her,” Scott said. “We all wanted it, we’ve been wanting it all year. She definitely deserves it.”
One could make an argument for Fennelly being the Big 12 coach of the year after the Cyclones’ down season last year and out-playing the preseason expectations. But Baylor didn’t lose a single conference game all season, so Kim Mulky rightfully earned the award.
“The award I received — I’ve had it all year — and it’s coaching this team,” Fennelly said.
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