Before the start of the 2015-16 season, Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly left a motivational note in forward Seanna Johnson’s locker highlighting that she was snubbed from the preseason All-Big 12 team.
This season, Fennelly will have to find new motivation for Johnson.
The 5-foot-10 senior was recently named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. However, it is only the preseason. Johnson has to go out and prove during the season that she is worthy of that honor. That is exactly what she intends to do.
“It’s probably going to be the All-Big 12 team list,” Johnson said about what she will use as motivation this year. “Knowing it’s the start, not the finish.”
According to Fennelly, Johnson has a chance to go down as one of the all-time greats at Iowa State. During her career in Ames, Johnson has steadily improved. She went from 10.2 points per game during here freshman year to 11.7 her sophomore season to 17 last year. That sets the bar high for this season.
“She is one of those players that wants to get better,” Fennelly said.
In Johnson’s mind, the biggest thing she needs to improve on is being a better shooter – primarily her 3-point shot – as she only converted 29.3-percent last year.
But if Johnson wants to go down as one of the greatest to ever play in Ames, playing for winning team would benefit the case. And with a player like Johnson, Fennelly believes she will be playing for a winner this season.
Who is going to be the point guard?
Fennelly is still figuring out his point guard situation.
Iowa State’s veteran coach has made it clear that he wants junior Jadda Buckley to play off of the ball more if possible. If that turns out being the case, it leaves partial point guard duty open for three players: redshirt freshman TeeTee Starks, freshman Nia Washington and freshman Adriana Camber.
Each player brings an unique skill set to the table.
“TeeTee is the best defender. Nia is the fastest and Adriana has more length and experience,” Fennelly said.
Fennelly is looking for two things in his point guard: who gives Iowa State the best chance to literally win the ballgame and which one gels best with the rest of the lineup?
Don’t be surprised if it’s Starks splitting the point guard duties with Buckley this year because during Fennelly’s media day press conference last week, he stated that losing her to injury last season was the biggest blow that his team could have possibly taken. They lost her versatility, as apparently she can guard and play any position on the floor.
Avoiding sophomore slumps
Iowa State will rely heavily on two sophomores, Bridget Carleton and Meredith Burkhall, at the forward positions this season.
Last year, both athletes played a ton of minutes as freshman – Carleton logged 912 and Burkhall 679.
Carleton was named to freshman All-Big 12 team while Burkhall had an up-and-down first year in Ames.
The question surrounding these two players is the proverbial sophomore slump myth. Will they regress or will they progress?
According to Carleton, the biggest area of improvement for her is the inside game. Last year, the Canadian attempted 167 threes, which was tied for most on the team. While for Burkhall, playing more physical in the post is the biggest key for her.
“They had to play a lot of minutes as a true freshman and in our league, that’s really hard,” Fennelly said. “Bridget is coming in with a lot of confidence. And Meredith learned a lot and got stronger.”
Last year, Iowa State finished under .500 for the first time since the 2002-03 season. If the two sophomores can build upon their impressive freshman seasons, the Cyclones could get back to their winning ways in 2016-17.