By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
Follow Ian on Twitter @IanWsmith3
Bill Fennelly is a basketball junkie.
Surround him with some of the best coaches in college basketball and he’s definitely going to learn a few things.
That’s exactly what happened at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China.
As his United States women’s team was rolling to a gold medal, Fennelly studied the ways international teams use their post players. He also spent countless hours around a cafeteria table picking the brains of USA men’s basketball coaches Matt Painter (Purdue), Brad Stevens (Butler) and Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee).
“International basketball, they have a lot of good offensive ideas,” Fennelly said. “They don’t care about guarding anybody, that’s no big deal to them. Offensively, they have some neat stuff.”
Veteran Cyclones Anna Prins and Amanda Zimmerman could benefit from Fennelly’s newfound knowledge.
“We have a lot of kids here, historically, post-players that can step away from the basket and play away from the basket,” Fennelly said. “In international basketball, a lot of the big kids play away from the basket. It’s not just go to the block and post up. The international style fits a lot of our kids and I think there’s some things there that we can include in what we do.”
Meanwhile back in China, the United States steamrolled its way through the tournament.
The red, white and blue went 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 45 points. The United States played 24 quarters of basketball and didn’t lose one.
One of the hardest things for Fennelly was finding minutes for all his players.
“We had a great team,” Fennelly said. “We knew we could score. The pace of the game, we tried to get up and down the floor. Our goal was to get to 100 every game.”
The United States beat Taiwan 101-66 on Sunday to capture the gold. Now, if only Fennelly could find his precious medal. With classes beginning Monday and Iowa State players starting individual workouts, Fennelly’s suitcase – with gold medal presumably in it – is still unpacked.
“I don’t know what day it is,” Fennelly joked about his lengthy travel schedule. “I don’t know what the day of the week is. You leave a country one day and get back the day before you left. That was really freaky.”
Give Bill Fennelly an “A” for preparation. Not only did he design successful game plans for his USA basketball team, he also spent time before leaving Ames packing a suitcase with goodies to get him through the trip to China.
"The food was awful,” Fennelly said. “I ate bread, noodles, granola bars that I took with me, licorice that I took with me. And there was a McDonald’s in the dining hall. I ate McDonald’s about four times. It was a struggle.”
Luckily, the frightening foreign food was offset by the support of Fennelly’s No. 1 fan. His wife, Deb, made the trek to China.
“That was the best part of it, really that Deb got to go,” Fennelly said. “She and my sister-in-law were there. They had a great time. When you do something like this and get to share it with your wife, your best friend, that was a major part of it for me. Professionally, it was as good as a situation I’ve been in in a long time. To have her there was really cool.”
Deb wasn’t the only one cheering on the United States. Fennelly said random Americans who were in China on business or other travels made their way to the gym to watch the USA dominate their foes.
“There are a lot of Americans doing business in China, and every time we saw somebody they were screaming, waving flags. It gave you a great sense of pride to walk around in your U.S.A. stuff.”
A busy schedule didn’t allow the team to make many sightseeing trips, but that didn’t stop them from interacting with the Chinese people. While Fennelly was scouting the next day’s opponent, the team was out finding cheap merchandise to take back home.
“When we got to the quarterfinals, I said if you win I’ll let you go shopping” Fennelly said. “They played their guts out. Maybe that’s what I need to do here a little bit more (in Ames).”
Besides shopping, the team also spent time watching all the other sports at the World University Games including, men’s basketball, track, water polo and volleyball.