Women’s basketball transition provides players with opportunities

Zac Reicks

Rebuild or reload.

Those are the only options ISU head women’s coach Bill Fennelly has in front of him for the 2002-2003 season.

Gone are all-Big 12 performers Angie Welle and Tracy Gahan.

The two stalwarts accounted for almost 35 points per game in leading the Cyclones to their fifth straight 20-win season and a second round game in the NCAA tournament.

While Welle anchored the middle with solid defense and low-post scoring, Gahan was a do-everything player for the Cyclones who helped to fill the stat sheet night in and night out.

Fennelly’s biggest task this year will be finding the replacements who are capable of putting up numbers similar to his two graduates.

“We go from all-conference center to someone who hasn’t played and someone who is playing a new position,” Fennelly said. “With the loss of Tracy, we lose someone who could do everything for this program.”

Fennelly will look to true freshmen Megan McCracken and Kandice Beenken, redshirt freshman Brittany Wilkins and transfer Anne O’Neil to help solidify a squad that will be undersized the whole year.

McCracken, who played her prep ball in Illinois, comes to Iowa State as a player who can score, run the point and provide significant minutes off the bench in relief of starting point guard Lindsey Wilson.

“I’ve got a great opportunity to come in and play right away,” McCracken said.

The true freshman obviously will not unseat Wilson as the playmaker of the team, but can learn much from watching the Cyclones’ floor leader.

Besides that, they will likely give the fans something to look forward to as well.

“[Megan] McCracken is a kid you will all like to watch,” Fennelly said.

“She is really talented and aggressive.”

Talented is just one of the many labels given to the redshirt sophomore O’Neil.

After sitting out her transfer year from Illinois, and then suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the spring, O’Neil will be counted upon heavily to pick up the scoring slack left behind by Welle and Gahan.

“Anne can score, there’s no doubt about that,” Fennelly said. “She’s good with the ball and knows how to win.”

Beenken, a 6-foot freshman from Titonka, is another newcomer who can score, as she averaged 20 ppg during high school. She also holds her school’s career marks in points and rebounds and played on the 2001 AAU state championship squad.

Another player who will be looked to help pick up the scoring slack is freshman post player Brittany Wilkins.

While the 6-foot-3 center from Arlington, Neb. will be primarily a backup at the beginning of the season, Fennelly will need for her to contribute significant minutes if Iowa State expects to continue their winning ways.

“Brittany is coming on but still a little behind physically with her knee injury,” Fennelly said.

“We need to try and replace a little of Welle’s scoring with both [Lisa Kriener] and [Wilkins],” he said.

Regardless, Iowa State will need their newcomers to take it to the next level if they expect to duplicate the success from teams past.

For Iowa State to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, the new faces on the block will need to make fans and coaches alike forget the good players they are replacing.