AMES — Ashley Joens averaged 20.5 points and 10.9 rebounds last season for the Iowa State women’s basketball team.
When the first-team all-Big 12 selection met with Coach Bill Fennelly before this season, his message was clear.
Be even better.
“She looked at me in a funny way,” Fennelly said with a chuckle. “But my challenge for her is great players play on great teams.”
Part of playing on a great team is taking your teammates along with you in a role of leadership as well as trusting them on the court.
Joens has a blueprint of what that looks like.
“Bridget Carleton was a great player her senior year and was player of the year in our league and won a lot of awards and they were all very deserved. But she played on a great team,” Fennelly said. “That’s the challenge for Ashley. How does she bring her teammates to her level? How does she bring them to her work ethic?
“Sometimes it’s on the sidelines. She’s not a rah-rah, scream and holler kind of person. She’s more by example. And that’s fine. It’s just the next level of maturity as a student-athlete.”
Joens’ teammates already have noticed her step into her new role. And she hasn’t just stepped into it, she’s excelled in it.
Iowa State’s 2020 recruiting class was the best it has ever brought in. Fennelly said all four freshmen will play this season and all four will likely play major roles in how successful No. 15 Iowa State can be.
“Ashely is tremendous and I didn’t have to tell you that. You already knew that,” senior Maddie Wise said. “She’s great on the court, obviously her stats are amazing but she really is a great person.
“I think she’s the most patient person I’ve ever met in my life. She’s very patient with people, teammates, the freshmen — everyone. She’s more of a leader with her work ethic — she’s not crazy vocal but she’s great.”
The Cyclones dealt with numerous injuries last season. Wise missed much of the season with a concussion and migraines, Kristin Scott missed time with a back injury and Rae Johnson missed time as well.
Joens was tasked with much of the scoring and rebounding load. But now that all of them are back and healthy, and with the freshman class that’s been brought in, some of the burden will be lifted from Joens.
“Her numbers may drop, and she may still be a better player,” Fennelly said. “Her numbers may drop and our team might be better. It’s the little things — limit the turnovers and get her assists up a little bit.”
Joens averaged 1.9 assists and 2.4 turnovers last season.
“She’s going to get double teamed and triple teamed,” Fennelly said. “There’s a reason she drew more fouls than any player in the country last season. And it’s because the way to guard her was to just beat the crap out of her and that’s what everyone did.
“She has to have a lot of trust — and if you don’t trust your sister (freshman Aubrey Joens), who are you going to trust? She has to have a lot of trust in her teammates that if you’re going to give up the ball, they can make a play for you. All of her teammates can.”
Joens is ready and willing to take on the challenge of becoming an even better player.
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“It motivates you to know that you have to keep getting better,” Joens said. “With the new players and freshmen coming in, you have to keep working and help bring them into it. I need to get better as an overall player, not just scoring and rebounding.”