AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball star Ashely Joens has another step to take.
Joens improved a great deal from her freshman to sophomore season, becoming one of the best players in the Big 12. She averaged 20.5 points and 10.9 rebounds last season.
Even though she won the most Big 12 Player of the Week honors last season, ISU Coach Bill Fennelly believes Joens has another step to take.
“The good thing about Ashley is she’s never satisfied,” Fennelly said. “That’s what the great players want to do. We all watched ‘The Last Dance’ with Michael Jordan and he held his teammates accountable and the thing the great players do is they bring their team with them and that’s what Ashley has to do now.”
Joens now has to take on a leadership role on Iowa State’s team and help push the team forward for the Cyclones to be as successful as possible.
“She’s benefited from learning from Bridget (Carleton) and Adriana Camber and now it’s her turn to be that kind of player and that kind of leader that puts the team in a position to win on a consistent basis,” Fennelly said. “You can put up a lot of numbers but you’re identified and recognized for winning games as a team.
“Ashley needs to do that — and she wants to do it. I have great confidence that she can.”
It won’t just be Joens doing the heavy lifting next year either. She’ll have Kristin Scott to lean on, assuming Scott is healthy. Scott dealt with a back injury for much of last season that hampered her production. But assuming the senior is healthy, Scott can be an All-Big 12 caliber player.
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“In women’s basketball, it’s so much about your seniors,” Fennelly said. “Kristin, if she stays healthy, could be as good as any player we’ve had. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been healthy. But if she’s healthy, she’ll be a professional. I honestly believe she’ll make money playing basketball.”
Even while dealing with an injured back last season, she averaged 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds.
And she did that playing in the post. Next season she might not have to bang bodies as much thanks to Wake Forest transfer Lindsey Jarosinski.
Jarosinski is 6-foot-5 and was rated as the 44th-best recruit coming out of high school. As a freshman at Wake Forest, she played in 27 games and averaged 1.4 points and 1.8 rebounds.
Fennelly indicated the sophomore made a big jump during her redshirt year.
“I hope she makes the same impact that she made on the scout team because we couldn’t guard her last season when she was redshirting,” Fennelly said. “She gives us a big, strong, physical person on the block and in our league, we need that.”
The last pieces to Iowa State’s puzzle are the incoming freshmen who make up the highest-ranked recruiting class Iowa State has ever had.
Fennelly, who’s had freshmen succeed in recent years in Joens and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, already knows he’ll have a hard time keeping them off the floor.
“They’re going to play,” Fennelly said bluntly. “They have to earn their spot. It’s really easy to score in high school but when you’re playing Baylor instead of some directional county high school, it’s a little bit different. But they’ll play.”
The Cyclones ended last season on a very high note, beating No. 2 Baylor. Fennelly is hoping his team can carry that momentum into next season.
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And with the returning pieces he already has, and the ones he’ll be able plug into the equation, he believes it will be a good year for the Cyclones.
“You wish the great teams could keep going, but we have to sort of start over,” Fennelly said. “We weren’t great early on last season — I didn’t do my job the way I should’ve. But by the end, we figured out our identity and that’s what we’re hoping to do with this team.
“We have a lot of good players back and when the end is so positive, you just want to build on that.”