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Freshmen Crooks, Joens embrace the Cy-Hawk series, ready for No. 4 Iowa

Audi+Crooks+walks+off+the+court+after+Iowa+State+defeats+Butler+82-55+during+the+home+opener+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Nov.+6%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Audi Crooks walks off the court after Iowa State defeats Butler 82-55 during the home opener at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 6, 2023.

AMES — For many players on the Iowa State roster, Wednesday will be the biggest test so far. That test is amplified even more considering who the Cyclones are playing.

A young Iowa State bunch welcomes No. 4 Iowa and Caitlin Clark, one of the best women’s basketball players in the nation, to Ames for another edition of the Cy-Hawk women’s basketball series.

The national focus will be on Clark, but for Iowa State freshmen Audi Crooks and Kelsey Joens, this game means a lot to them being Iowa natives.

For Joens, she grew up watching her sisters play in this game for Iowa State. Now, she gets her first opportunity to play against Iowa and etch her own history in Ames.

“Growing up I watched this game. You know how big it is, and to be able to play in it, it just means the world,” Joens said.

Joens grew up in Iowa City and has been around the rivalry her entire life. She has seen both the rivalry and women’s basketball grow from a birds-eye view.

“Over the years, you get more and more people following along looking forward to this game. I think it brings a lot of attention to women’s basketball,” Joens said. “Everyone looks forward to this game so it just means a lot more to everyone.”

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly expressed how impactful Joens’ presence has been through the early portion of the season. He said Joens wants to be remembered for herself and not just as the younger sister of Ashley and Aubrey Joens.

Kelsey Joens goes coast to coast to score the basket against Truman State in an exhibition game at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 1, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

“Kelsey Joens was more than ready to come to this level,” Fennelly said. “She comes in as a freshman and is starting against Iowa in her eighth college game. That says a lot about her too. We’re lucky to have her, and I think she’s going to do a lot of great things here.”

The other Iowa native to keep an eye on is Crooks. Named 2023 Miss Iowa Basketball, Crooks was heavily recruited by both Iowa and Iowa State.

Fennelly knows the impact Crooks has had on women’s basketball in the state of Iowa and for Iowa State. He knows this is a big game for her and has enjoyed seeing her progress.

“She’s got a great demeanor and understands the things that we’re trying to ask of her,” Fennelly said. “I’m sure she’s excited for this game. Everyone is, but it seems like the in-state kids have a little extra heartbeat when you get into these kinds of games.”

Crooks, like Joens, grew up watching this rivalry and is excited to finally be a part of it.

“It’s always a fun game no matter who you root for,” Crooks said. “I’ve been to three in person and watched the other ones on TV, because everybody wants to watch the game.”

A dominant force so far, Crooks said she feels like she has grown as a player through her first few collegiate games. The physicality is something she talked about getting used to compared to high school games.

“I’ve become a lot more comfortable on the court,” Crooks said. “I’ve become a lot more comfortable against this level of competition.”

Senior Nyamer Diew has also seen the growth of Crooks on the court and has enjoyed having her be a part of Iowa State women’s basketball.

“She’s willing to learn,” Diew said. “She loves to prove the haters wrong. I love that [Crooks] is my teammate.”

Being one of the more experienced players on the team, Diew has been viewed as a leader for the freshmen and the team as a whole. Her expertise will be needed to guide Iowa State to a win over Iowa.

“Having this experience I have allows me to be a leader for our team,” Diew said. “They have to give effort in every single play, no matter what the play is.”

Iowa State welcomes No. 4 Iowa to Ames for the 49th chapter of the Cy-Hawk women’s basketball game. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be televised on ESPN 2.

“When this team clicks collectively, defensively and offensively, I think we can compete with anybody, and I really honestly believe that,” Crooks said. “Coming into this game, everybody needs to believe that.”

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    Russ Twelmeyer | Dec 6, 2023 at 9:33 am

    Another great article from this sports writer, well done.

    Reply