Wilson, Welle lead women’s basketball charge

Jeremy Gustafson

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series that features female athletes at Iowa State.

Not long ago, ISU women’s basketball was hardly a draw at Iowa State. A few hundred people showed up to watch the action at Hilton Coliseum.

The few fans that showed up saw Iowa State struggle to a 237-353 record in the first 22 years the program existed. Enter Bill Fennelly, and the Cyclone faithful have watched Iowa State mount victory after victory for a 138-50 record in six seasons.

As victories increase, so do the fans. Last season the Cyclones had one of the top draws in the country for women’s basketball, averaging 11,370 per home game.

“I don’t think it’s just women watching women’s basketball to support women,” ISU junior point guard Lindsey Wilson said. “I think that there’s a lot of men and a lot of women and a lot of kids that watch the basketball, because it’s good. They’re not doing it because they feel sorry for women.”

Wilson is one of two Cyclones to earn preseason All-America honors this year, the other being senior center Angie Welle.

And both are reasons that fans flock to see the Cyclones.

“I think a lot of people are going to be paying attention to what we [as a team] do this year,” Wilson said.

With the ISU men’s basketball team facing a possible rebuilding year, the women’s team continues to have high expectations. In preseason polls, the Cyclones range from eighth to second in the nation.

“It feels good to represent the university in a positive way,” Wilson said.

But Wilson and her fellow Cyclones know that the treatment they receive, may not be shared by women’s teams across the nation, regardless of success.

“I think the people we have supporting us here just won’t put up with [us being treated differently],” Wilson said. “That feels really good, because I don’t think that is the same everywhere.”

Welle agrees.

“Here isn’t typical of the type of atmosphere,” she said, “It’d be a good atmosphere for a men’s team or a women’s team to play in.”

Wilson thinks that the possible lack of popularity for women’s basketball may result from a past experience and people not willing to give the sport another shot.

“I don’t think that some people have seen top-level women’s basketball,” Wilson explains. “Maybe they saw their high school basketball team play, and maybe those girls weren’t as dedicated as they needed to be.”

Wilson said that people may see one bad women’s game and be turned off by it, where as if you see a bad men’s game, since there are so many other options, people will always watch it again.

Bad basketball is not something people should expect to see in the Big 12, as it has grown into one of the most competitive conferences to play in.

Teams like Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and a host of others will compete for the conference crown and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The competition has also helped the Big 12 land a deal with Fox Sports to televise more games this season.

“We’re not where men’s [basketball] is; I don’t think it ever will be,” Welle said, “but we’re making progress, and I think that is what’s exciting for big time women’s basketball.”

And it’s exciting for Cyclone fans.

Due to the team’s fan base and success, Hilton Coliseum will host the NCAA women’s regional round.

The possibility of four games in Ames and a trip to the Final Four is a reality for the Cyclone women.

It would be just another chapter in what has been a storybook ride for the Cyclones.