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Iowa State women’s basketball team set for exhibition game

Freshman+center+from+Algona%2C+Iowa%2C+Audi+Crooks+speaks+with+local+media++during+the+Iowa+State+womens+basketball+media+day%2C+Sukup+Basketball+Complex%2C+Oct.+12%2C+2023.+
Joseph Dicklin
Freshman center from Algona, Iowa, Audi Crooks speaks with local media during the Iowa State women’s basketball media day, Sukup Basketball Complex, Oct. 12, 2023.

Iowa State enters the 2023-24 season with plenty of new faces following the success of last season.

The new squad features plenty of freshmen and transfers ready to prove what they can do for the Cyclones. In all, eight of the 13 Cyclones are new to the team this year.

The reigning Big 12 champs lost several players either to graduation or the transfer portal but maintain high hopes for the season.

During the 2022-23 season, the Cyclones went 22–10 overall and 11–7 in the Big 12. Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament and was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Toledo.

One key freshman to watch is Kelsey Joens. Kelsey Joens, sister of Ashley Joens, who was the star player for Iowa State the past few seasons, enters the year ready to make her own legacy at Iowa State.

The freshman guard finished her senior season at West Liberty High School, leading the 3A division in points scored and was third in all classes with 591 points. Kelsey Joens was also second in 3A for rebounds, grabbing 285 on the season.

Another freshman to keep an eye on is Iowa native Audi Crooks. Crooks ranked 57th in the 2023 ESPNW Top 100 following back-to-back state championships at Bishop Garrigan High School.

At media day, Crooks expressed her excitement for staying in Iowa and was looking forward to getting started at Iowa State.

“Iowa State stuck out to me because of the coaching,” Crooks said. “From the day I committed, even before I committed, I felt so much support from Cyclone Nation. People were reaching out just to ask about my day. You don’t get that anywhere else.”

The Cyclones recruiting class ranked No. 13 in the country, which included Addy Brown (No. 31 in ESPNW Top 100), Jalynn Bristow (No. 47), Arianna Jackson, Kelsey Joens and Crooks. Those five freshmen bring a lot of promise to this Iowa State team.

Iowa State also gained some new faces from the transfer portal. Junior transfer Isnelle Natabou said it was the coaching staff that ultimately made her decide to come to Iowa State.

“When I got contacted from Iowa State, I researched coach [Bill] Fennelly and his great coaching staff, and I knew that this team of people knows how to recruit players and most importantly develop players,” Natabou said about transferring to Iowa State from Sacramento State.

Transfer portal players include Natabou, sophomore Alisa Williams from reigning national champions LSU and graduate transfer Hannah Belanger from Truman State University, the team Iowa State plays in its exhibition game.

The freshmen and transfers could see big roles early in the season for Iowa State, and that starts with the exhibition.

Truman State finished last season 20–10 and missed the NCAA Tournament. A big key for Truman State was shooting 46.6% from the field and 38% from three-point range.

The Bulldogs’ roster features a good mix of seasoned players and young ones, including three graduate students, one senior and six freshmen. One freshman, Molly Joyce, played at Bishop Garrigan with Crooks.

Truman State played Illinois in an exhibition game Monday, where Illinois won 121–60. Even though it was a large margin of victory, Wednesday’s game will still be a good measuring point for the Cyclones.

The exhibition match against Truman State will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hilton Coliseum.

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