Women's Basketball

FERGUSON: Joens’ return sets sky-high expectations for ISU in 2022-23

Iowa State lost to a No. 10 seeded Creighton team on Friday night to end its season in the Greensboro Regional of the Sweet 16.

To say it was disappointing would be an understatement. At the same time, that disappointment probably isn’t fair to the players and staff around the team.

The NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot. The program earned its sixth Sweet 16. Sometimes another team makes more shots than yours does.

Oh well.

I’ve written extensively about how good this team was and on Monday, fans got the news that brings a unique sequel to the fold.

Ashley Joens is back.

The most prolific scorer in program history will return to Iowa State for the 2022-23 season, opening the door for a mountain of expectations.

Joens has one year of eligibility remaining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extra year that was awarded to athletes in response. With her making the decision to play in an Iowa State uniform for another year, the Cyclones are a near-lock to open next season as a top-10 team.

Nearly the entire roster plans to be back in Ames next season. Maddie Frederick was the only other player to participate in Senior Night activities besides Joens.

Yes, that means Emily Ryan, Lexi Donarski and Morgan Kane will all be back. All three of them improved drastically throughout the year. All three of them are another year older and will have an extra offseason under their belts.

Yes, Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, Nyamar Diew, Aubrey Joens and Beatriz Jordao will be back, too. The team that came one game short of winning a Big 12 regular-season title and advanced to the sixth Sweet 16 in program history is returning its entire regular rotation.

Oh, they’ll also add Denae Fritz back into the equation. The 5-foot-11 guard from Tennessee was a starter early in the season before shutting it down for the year due to a lingering injury.

Going back to November, Fritz took over the game against Drake to help Iowa State put that one away, scoring 17 points and looking like the toughest player on the court.

Y’all remember when coach Bill Fennelly said he’d take Fritz with him if he had to walk down a dark alley in Des Moines? Yeah, she’s going to be an electric watch.

Iowa State’s lone recruit in the 2022 class is 5-foot-10 Canadian guard Shantavia Dawkins.

Dawkins comes in having averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game for Southwest Academy in Ontario.

The entirety of the roster isn’t quite finalized yet, and there’s always a chance of addition from the transfer portal.

The Joens decision, regardless, boosts the expectations.

Watch for it when basketball season comes around again, perhaps beginning in the AP preseason top 10 for Iowa State.

Here come the Cyclones.