Notebook: Fennelly talks opener, Thurmon and Burkhall

Senior Bridget Carleton dribbles the ball past Bearcat players during the game against Southwest Baptist University on Nov. 1 at the Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones won 90 to 51. 

Spencer Suckow

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly gave the rundown this week before the Cyclones’ opener.

Ready for the opener

Unlike the men’s team, the Iowa State women have to wait a couple extra days to get their season started.

The team will play its first game of the season against Niagara at noon on Friday as part of the WNIT. The exhibition games provided the Cyclones a taste of real action. Fennelly said the staff and players are anxious to get things started for real.

“I think the biggest thing is we’re just looking forward to playing,” Fennelly said. “I think when you see the [men’s basketball team] open [Tuesday] and see the game on TV, you’re kinda waiting your turn.

[The players] are tired of practicing and the exhibition games were fun, but now it’s time for real and we’re looking forward to going on Friday.”

Fennelly also added that there will be no changes to the starting lineup from the exhibition games, and that the team will still rotate players 

“We’ll start the same people that we’ve been starting and continue to use a lot of different combinations,” Fennelly said. “We’ll play whoever we have to play as many minutes as possible. We’ll see how the game dictates it.”

Jade Thurmon’s transition

Although Alexa Middleton is set to begin the season as Iowa State’s starting point guard, Fennelly mentioned previously that the staff will use a committee approach to start the year.

This means several players will likely get a shot at running the point in the first couple of games, with one of them being JUCO transfer Jade Thurmon. Thurmon comes to Iowa State after a strong season last year at Kilgore College, where she averaged 23.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game en route to being named an NJCAA first-team All-American.

Thurmon played 11 minutes in the Cyclones’ most recent exhibition, but limited playing time can be somewhat expected as she transitions to major college basketball. Also, given that it is such a large transition, Fennelly said some growing pains are likely for Thurmon in the near future.

“I think every day you’re going to see some really good stuff and some really bad stuff,” Fennelly said. “I have to do a better job of putting her into positions where she can relax a little bit. We’ve got to do some things, maybe simplify our offense a little bit.”

In addition to simplifying the offense, Fennelly said some responsibility falls on Thurmon’s teammates to help her get comfortable.

“The other thing that has to happen, when you have a new player, the kids around her have to help, too,” Fennelly said. “It doesn’t just fall on her shoulders. Brock Purdy is a great quarterback, but the other 10 guys have to help too. That’s the same thing we’re trying to get with Jade.”

Burkhall ready to go

Since the preseason, Fennelly mentioned on multiple occasions that senior forward Meredith Burkhall would be full-go by the start of the season.

According to Fennelly, that’s still the plan. Burkhall, who suffered a major health scare in the form of multiple blood clots during the offseason, played in Iowa State’s exhibition games and has been a full participant in practice since September.

In fact, Fennelly said if a person had been out of the loop, they’d never know anything was wrong with Burkhall in the first place.

“Up to this point, if you came every day, you’d never notice there was anything going on,” Fennelly said. “She’s good to go, and she’s always been about a 20-minutes-per-game player, so I don’t think that’s going to change.”

Fennelly added that what Burkhall went through has given both her and the team a renewed appreciation for life and basketball.

“It’s been exciting to see her play,” Fennelly said. “I think she has a new-found enthusiasm as a senior for what she went through, but she’s ready to go.”