Hall, Joens named Big 12 Athlete of the Year candidates

Ashey Joens shoots a three-pointer in the Cyclones’ 82-79 loss to the University of Texas on March 12 in the 2022 Big 12 Championship semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri.

Christian Royston

Now that the Big 12 Media Days are over and the conference is open for business, some final awards are due for outstanding athletes from the last year of Big 12 sports.

Throughout the week, the Big 12 Conference has highlighted its candidates for the 2021-22 Big 12 Athlete of the Year awards. Iowa State women’s basketball guard/forward Ashley Joens and running back Breece Hall were nominated for the award Monday.

The Big 12 will continue announcing candidates through Friday. The awards winners will be announced the week of July 25, according to the Big 12 Conference. 

Joens and Hall had historic seasons filled with many awards and records broken. It seemed an obvious choice to select these two athletes for the Big 12 award, as Joens and Hall earned Iowa State athlete of the year awards. 

After a dominating season, Joens was named Iowa State Athletics’ 2021-22 Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year on July 7. This award was destined to fall to Joens as her efforts helped bring Iowa State to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2010.

Joens is one the most decorated players in Iowa State history and ended last season as one of the best active women’s basketball players in the nation. Her back-to-back Cheryl Miller Awards speak for themselves, as Joens is the first player to earn the award two years in a row.

The Cyclones experienced immense success with Joens on the court, as they went 28-7 last season, breaking the program record for the most wins in a season. This historic season, capped off by a record 13 wins against tough Big 12 opponents, gave them the momentum they needed to make it to the Sweet 16 after rolling past some tough teams in the NCAA tournament.

Joens was the clear-cut favorite for the Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year award, averaging 20.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. She also broke her career-best for 3-pointers with 91, shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. 

Joens’ dominance as a scorer helped her add more points to her career total, bumping her up to the No. 1 spot on the Iowa State scoring list with 2,369 career points. Those 2,369 points made her the NCAA’s active career scoring leader going into the upcoming season.

Joens didn’t just make a name for herself as a strong scorer, as her 1,081 career rebounds put her third all-time in rebounds in school history. She also led the team in rebounds for her third-straight season.

Joens’ dominance on the court earned her All-America honors from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). She also earned unanimous All-Big 12 First Team honors for the third time in her career.

Joens’ recently continued to show off her strong scoring ability on the world stage, as she represented Team USA at the FIBA 3×3 World Cup in Belgium. With her world-class talent and collegiate excellence, it will be interesting to see how Joens matches up with other elite players in the Big 12.

Just one day after Joens was named Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year, Hall was named the 2022 Gary Thompson Iowa State Male Athlete of the Year. Hall had similar dominance in football as Joens had in basketball, earning himself All-American honors in 2021.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year made a name for himself as one of the best running backs in Iowa State history, finishing his career either owning or sharing 11 school records. Hall also broke the NCAA all-time record for consecutive games with a rushing touchdown in 24 straight games.

Hall finished his third and final season for the Cyclones with 1,472 rushing yards, tying the Iowa State record for touchdowns in a season with 23, which he broke in 2020. He’s also one of four players – and the only Iowa State player – to earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors multiple times.

His rushing dominance put him at the top of the Big 12, leading in rushing yards per game with 122.7 and rushing touchdowns. Hall also finished sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game and fourth in the nation in rushing touchdowns.

Hall was also a threat in the passing game, catching 36 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns, which tied him for the second-most receptions by a running back in program history. After finishing top-10 in Heisman voting for the second time in his career, Hall hung up his cleats for Iowa State and decided to move onto the big leagues.

Hall’s elite production at the collegiate level caught the eyes of NFL scouts as he became the first running back taken off the draft board with the second-round pick from New York Jets. This selection made him the highest Cyclone drafted since 2012.

Hall was a staple for the Iowa State football program throughout his time on the team, and his recent success earned him Iowa State Male Athlete of the Year honors. His overall success should move him higher up when it comes down to deciding the Big 12 Athlete of the Year.