AMES — Being a freshman playing Division I basketball is hard.
Being a freshman playing Division I basketball as a point guard is very hard.
Being a freshman playing Division I basketball as a point guard during a pandemic is near impossible.
But Iowa State’s Emily Ryan has found away.
She’ll be at the helm as Iowa State (7-4, 3-1` Big 12) hosts Oklahoma State (9-2, 5-0) on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+).
Ryan’s season hasn’t come without difficulties. She didn’t score in double digits until her ninth game against Drake. In the eight previous games, she shot just 30.7 percent from the floor.
Even though her shot wasn’t falling, she was orchestrating the Iowa State offense with aplomb. She led, and still leads, the Big 12 with 6.5 assists per game.
But over the last three games, as she’s gotten more comfortable, Ryan has really stepped up.
Against Drake, she had 20 points and 10 assists; against Texas, she had 11 points and five assists; and in Iowa State’s most recent game against Texas Tech, she totaled 14 points and 12 assists.
“It’s amazing. It really is.” ISU Coach Bill Fennelly said. “It’s not just that she’s a freshman playing at this level — it’s that she’s a freshman playing point guard at this level with all of the restrictions and limitations that we have right now. She’s trying to assimilate to this level, and be away from home in a very unique situation.”
It doesn’t hurt that Ryan has All-Big 12 players in Ashley Joens and Kristin Scott playing alongside her to help guide the transition.
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Scott, however, likely will miss Iowa State’s game against Oklahoma State with an injury. And the other two Iowa State starters also are freshmen — Lexi Donarski and Kylie Feuerbach.
“We’ve given her another tough dilemma because she’s starting with two other freshmen,” Fennelly said. “That’s a hard thing to do. But her teammates like playing with her — she’s a pass-first kid and is learning every day what it means to be a point guard at Iowa State, which is a great list. She wants to be, down the road, one of the people on that list.”
Her mental makeup is what’s allowed her to adapt to an ever-changing situation and thrive in the environment.
“She has amazing physical and mental toughness,” Fennelly said. “She loves the game. She’s in the gym all of the time. She takes hard coaching but she wants to win. She never lost a game in high school. She’s willing to do the things it takes to be successful.”
From Claflin, Kan., Ryan’s Central Plains High School team went 104-0 and won three state titles while she was on the team.
“She knows the legacy of playing point guard at Iowa State,” Fennelly said. “It means a lot to her. She’s willing to do the things it takes to be special and she’s done it since the day she’s walked on campus and it hasn’t changed — it’s not going to change. She’s that kind of kid.”