The Iowa State women’s basketball team is facing an unusual dilemma heading into the 2015-16 season.
The Cyclones need a new point guard. After the graduation of the program’s all-time leader in assists, Nikki Moody, head coach Bill Fennelly is searching for a new floor general.
In steps Jadda Buckley.
“Jadda Buckley will be the point guard,” Fennelly, who is entering his 21st season as ISU’s head coach, said Tuesday on media day. “This is the first year in a long time that we don’t have an incumbent point guard that you know is really, really good. If you look at that wall in there, it’s full of great point guards. I honestly believe Jadda Buckley could be the next one.”
Those are big words about a player that has some big shoes to fill.
The redshirt sophomore from Mason City has obviously already made her own mark on the program, averaging 10.9 points and being named to the Big 12 All-freshman team in 2013-14, but last season she was hampered by a stress injury in her right foot.
She played in just nine games before being shut down for the season.
“I love to play," Buckley said. "Basketball is, I like to say, my life. It was hard to sit there, but you know, you learn after a few weeks. This is what needs to be done and this is the role you need to embrace in order to help the team on the court.”
It didn’t take long for Buckley to do just that. She passed along tidbits of what she saw from the bench. She cheered on her team.
She did everything she could become a better leader even though she wasn’t on the floor.
“I told her last year, next year this is going to be your team. So you might as well start that process now,” Fennelly said. “Why wait until October? You might as well start it January, February and March and that’s what she did. I think our kids are excited about her being the person that has the ball.”
Sitting out also gave Buckley an opportunity to learn more about the game of basketball. She was able to see the floor from a whole new view.
“Sometimes we’re blinded by why we’re playing in the game and the role that we have on the court. Sometimes we miss those when Coach is telling us, ‘Hey look for that reverse pass, pivot and look behind you,’” Buckley said. “I think I was able to see what he was actually saying. Rather than when I’m in the shoes and I’m like, ‘I know but I see this.’ Being able to see it and then see it from a different point, like now I have both perspectives and I can kind of put it together on the court now.”
She also learned from the player she is tasked with replacing in Moody, who averaged 14.5 points and 6.8 assists per game during her senior season.
When things broke down for Iowa State last season, Moody was their go-to player. That’s going to be Buckley’s job now.
“She knew every option to every play. If the first option wasn’t open, she was automatically to the fourth option,” Buckley said. “I think that’s huge for me to learn just because plays break down during games. So you have to go to other options and I think that’s something that she was very strong in. I learned from her a lot.”
So even though Buckley wasn’t on the floor, the season wasn’t lost. She didn’t even lose any eligibility after being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA.
She called getting the opportunity to have one more year “huge.”
It doesn’t seem like Coach Fennelly is too mad about keeping her around.
“She’s going to have a really good year for us,” Fennelly said. “If she stays healthy for the next couple years she’ll be on that board.”