Women's Basketball

WBB: When can we expect the 2020 recruiting class to settle in?

Alright, there are a lot of question marks, but for the sake of this article, let’s envision the 2020-21 collegiate women’s basketball season going off without a hitch.

There will be something around 30 games played. Iowa State will face each of its in-state rivals as well as the No. 1 team in the nation in the non-conference slate before a grueling 18-game Big 12 schedule.

That’s a tough task to face for any, regular 18-11 Iowa State squad, but let’s talk about the potential for the upcoming season.

Specifically, we’re looking at the highest rated recruiting class in school history.

How fast will their play translate?

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly has touched on this subject before. He believes that all young players have to get past what he calls, “The Freshman Wall.”

It’s the barrier of play where young players get adjusted to the transition that has to be made between the high school and collegiate level – and it basically happens to everybody.

But, it doesn’t always happen at the same time or in the same way.

For the superstars of years past in Bridget Carleton and Ashley Joens, things got off to a decent start. They averaged 12.0 and 11.7 points per game, respectively in their first seasons in Ames.

If Iowa State gets that out of all four of their new additions to the roster, you can chalk them up to the Final Four. It won’t always be that easy and it wasn’t even easy for Joens nor Carleton.

During Joens’ freshman season, the Cyclones went to Iowa City for the annual Cy-Hawk game. Joens shot 1-10 from the three-point line, finishing with six points and a miss on a potential game-winning three-pointer.

She didn’t look back and utilized the few weeks before conference play, starting off her Big 12 career with four double-digit performances in the first eight games of the new year.

Carleton had her fair share of some bad games too, although she was a power on the 2015-16 team, a squad that is one of few in Fennelly’s tenure that finished with a losing record.

Overall, both players made the freshman wall seem like a small bump in the road during the non-conference season.

It’s not that easy for everyone, and when it is, it shows that we might be seeing the next big thing.

It’s not safe to assume that any of the incoming freshmen will turn out like that, though.

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw ended her season with an average of 8.6 points per game, although it was hardly indicative of her season.

Her year was a roller coaster after winter break hit.

Espenmiller-McGraw started off her Big 12 year with 17 points in her team’s opener against Texas Tech, before going into a bit of a down spell.

Her minutes declined. The shooting percentage got lower. She had zero points against Kansas State and essentially hit her wall.

And, as a valuable freshman, the former Southeast Polk Ram responded by scoring 20, 17, 10, and 18 points in her next four games.

In a lot of the cases in recent years – cases of incoming freshman that are set to have special careers – it’s more about how they respond when they hit that wall, rather than when they end up getting over it.

For some, like Kristin Scott, it takes longer.

Before Scott was a known sharpshooter, she averaged 4.8 points per game as a freshman.

By the end of the year, she was routinely playing less than 20 minutes per game.

Scott took that off-season to put the work in and it showed. She came out of it with four, separate nights where she didn’t miss. That’s on top of a 56.1 percent rate from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point land.

So, that leaves the overlying question mark of when we can expect this year’s class to pan out.

The last five seasons have shown that we really have no way of knowing – even if sometimes it looks like we do. They’ve also, though, shown that not every player has the same progression.

So, with that being the case, I think it’s important to expect a little bit of a good and a little bit of bad.

The positive is that with the team that’s currently on the roster in Ames, that little bit of good should be enough to make the Cyclones dance once again.


Connor Ferguson


Connor will be covering women’s basketball for Cyclone Fanatic during the 2018-19 season. He is currently a junior enrolled at Iowa State and is studying journalism at Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism. Connor also covers a variety of sports around the state of Iowa, including Indoor football and motorsports for Last Word on Sports. He also appears on-air four times a week covering high school football for 1460 KXnO, college football for his own podcast, and professional sports for 88.5 KURE – Iowa State’s student radio station.

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