AMES — Bill Fennelly has always been a senior oriented coach. He expects a lot from his fourth year playesr, not just on the floor but as all around people.
He expects them to live by the “Iowa State Way.”
Few people really personify this way of life like Kidd Blaskowsky.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a player that enjoys or celebrates wearing an Iowa State uniform more than Kidd does,” Fennelly said during the program’s media day last Tuesday. “She’s a fan favorite. She plays with a lot of energy, which I think is good.”
A lot of energy might even be an understatement. No other Cyclone shows the same level of emotion on the court as Blaskowsky. Whether she just knocked down a three (something she has done 165 times as a Cyclone), coming up with a big steal or celebrating an and-one her teammate just put in, she is always vocal and intense.
“When the time comes that something needs to be appreciated I’ll definitely be the first one to say something,” the senior from Sugar Land, Texas said.
Blaskowsky, along with fellow senior and roommate Madison Baier, will be tasked with leading a young Iowa State team that includes seven freshmen or sophomores in their top nine.
It would be a daunting task for any senior but Blaskowsky is up for the challenge.
“My teammates believe in me, I believe in them,” Blaskowsky said. “If I have to put them on my back to win games, I’ll do that. If they have to put me on their backs to win games, we’ll do that. It’s a great opportunity. I’m glad I get the chance to lead an Iowa State team.”
Johnson battling back after knee injury
Seanna Johnson expects to be back within two weeks after she’s sat out of Iowa State’s first two practices of the season.
The guard from Brooklyn Park, Minn. could be primed for a breakout year as a junior after being named All-Big 12 honorable mention last season, but she says she needs to be a better leader before can take the next step.
“I just need to vocally buy into what my teammates need from me and the freshman, especially what my coaches need from me as well,” Johnson said.
She is also feeling a bit more motivated heading into this season after being snubbed from the preseason All-Big 12 honors, something she isn’t going to forget.
“For me it’s a chip on my shoulder. I feel like it’s a self-motivation thing for me. If they don’t see it now I think by the end of the season I’ll leave a mark.”
All three true freshmen to play
Bill Fennelly wasn’t shy about his plan for his three highly touted freshmen entering their first collegiate season.
Fennelly, entering his 21st season as Iowa State’s head coach, said Meredith Burkhall, Bridget Carleton and TeeTee Starks are all expected to play big minutes for the Cyclones.
“If you’d watch us practice, there’s a lot of times where all three freshmen are on the court. They’re talented, they’re skilled kids. I told them before the very first practice that we’re going to have to coach them really hard because they’re going to have to play,” Fennelly said. “They came here to play. They’re all different positions. They’re all very skilled. You’re going to see a lot of all three of them this season, no doubt about that.”
*** Everybody surrounding the women’s basketball program is high on this group of freshmen, especially Bridget Carleton. I’ll have more on her later this week, but here’s this quote on the freshmen from Kidd Blaskowsky.
“Bridget, great player. She played Canada ball all summer so she came in in shape, ready to go, she’s got a great shot, she’s smart, her basketball IQ is up there, she’s going to do great things for this team. She’s going to have an awesome freshman year. You’ve got Meredith, from Des Moines, she’s going to be an Iowa State favorite. She’s been working her butt off getting in the gym every day. Outside of practice, still getting in the gym. Great personality. See her on campus and I guarantee she’ll make your day if she smiles. Then you’ve got TeeTee, great ball handler and awesome defender. When we need a defensive stop I know TeeTee will get in there and do what she can. They all bring something different to the table that can also benefit the team.”
*** Fennelly said he hasn’t been this excited to coach a team in a long time.
“We’re going to have our bumps and bruises and disappointments. It is what it is. But I told them, we had a meeting on Monday before practice, I’ll say it to you guys. I’m not going to say one thing about, ‘Oh we’re young, we’re inexperienced.’ No, I’m not going to give them that excuse. We’ve got to coach them better. They’ve got to play harder. They’re all on scholarship. They’ve got to find a way to be successful. When you play against a senior in college there’s going to be tough times. This is a year where we’re going to see a lot. We only lose Kidd this year. Next year Seanna’s the only senior, with Heather coming in. We have a lot of young people here that have a chance to be really good. If we can add a couple recruiting classes on top of it, we could have a really good balance.”
*** Fennelly has been pleased with the progression of Claire Ricketts as she comes back from injury this season. He even compared the redshirt freshman to a recent Cyclone great.
“Claire’s done really well. Claire’s someone that she plays very, very hard. Her skill set isn’t what it needs to be. She just started playing basketball when she was like a freshman in high school so she’s behind. She didn’t just miss playing last year, she really suffered by not being able to practice and I think she just needs work. When she runs in a straight line, sometimes the only thing that stops her is the wall. She doesn’t really have that figured out yet. Our fans are going to enjoy her. I don’t like comparing people, sometimes that’s not fair. But I think our fans like to know that because they don’t see them as often. She’s kind of a poor man’s Chelsea Poppens. She came here under-sized, maybe not ready for the primetime, but she’ll run, she’ll rebound, she’ll do the dirty work that you need to do.”
*** While Fennelly was talking about Jadda Buckley stepping up as a leader, he made some pretty funny comments on young people and social media.
“To be honest with you, in modern day, it’s hard for anybody. You guys don’t talk to anybody. Everybody is on their phone all the time. There’s nothing social about social media. Somebody said that, but they don’t talk. All these guys, so it’s out of everyone’s comfort zone. Unfortunately in basketball you need to talk.”