How Audi Crooks rose to become the top freshman in Iowa State history

Audi Crooks walks down the floor against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024.
Audi Crooks walks down the floor against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024.
Tyler Coe
Audi Crooks cant help but smile after she makes a layup while getting fouled late in the game against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024.

AMES — In a short amount of time, Audi Crooks has climbed to the top of the record books in multiple categories as a freshman at Iowa State.

A native of Algona, Iowa, Crooks played high school basketball at Bishop Garrigan, where she was a part of championship-caliber teams all four years. Bishop Garrigan won the 1A Iowa High School Girls basketball title in 2022 and 2023 and was runner-up the two previous years.

Crooks broke the record for points scored in a state tournament game in the 2023 championship, where she scored 49 points. That record was set for all classes.

Crooks was honored as a team captain in her championship years at Bishop Garrigan. In her four years in the state tournament, Crooks was a four-time Class 1A All-Tournament Team member.

Other than basketball, Crooks played volleyball and threw the shot put in track and field in high school. Crooks won the Class 1A State Championship for shot put in 2021 and 2023.

Her success and dominance in high school caught the eye of many colleges early, including the head coach at Iowa State, Bill Fennelly. Crooks committed to Iowa State in April of her sophomore year at Bishop Garrigan.

“When I committed [to Iowa State], so many people told me that I couldn’t play,” Crooks said. “So many people said, ‘Oh, she won’t see the court time. She won’t even see the court,’ and here I am, starting for the Iowa State Cyclones.”

Audi Crooks can’t help but smile after she makes a layup while getting fouled late in the game against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 13, 2024. (Tyler Coe)
Audi Crooks shoots the ball close to the hoop against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 3, 2023.

Many wondered if the high school version of Crooks would transfer to the collegiate level. Crooks herself was a skeptic at times and explained what it took to get adjusted to the higher level of competition.

“A lot of hard work,” Crooks said. “A lot of hours spent, you know. This is a lifestyle change, when you go from high school to college athletics. It’s a completely different ballgame in terms of the way you train, the way you prepare. So I kind of had to shift my mindset and my body and adjust in a different way so that I could play to the caliber that I’m playing at now.”

Crooks was in the same situation as the other four freshmen for the 2023-24 season because they all wanted to find their place and role on the team. Before her freshman campaign at Iowa State began, Crooks sat down and wrote out her goals for the season.

“I wrote to earn a starting role, to play significant minutes, to be effective from field goals and to be a better teammate. Those were my goals,” Crooks said.

Crooks would earn a spot in the starting five in the fifth game of the season against Syracuse. She made the most of it and scored 23 points in her 28 minutes of court time.

Since then, Crooks has become the permanent starter in the post, plays an average of 25 minutes per game and has a 58% field goal percentage. The goals she set at the beginning of the season have been checked off increasingly with time.

“We’re still working,” Crooks said. “I’m not satisfied by any means, but I’m a lot farther than I think everybody thought I was going to be. Including myself.”

Soon after she became a starter, Crooks became the focal point of the Cyclones with her ability to score and defend inside. Before long, the first Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor went her way.

Audi Crooks shoots the ball close to the hoop against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 3, 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.
Audi Crooks walks off the court after Iowa State defeats Butler 82-55 during the home opener at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 6, 2023. (Tyler Coe)
Audi Crooks high fives Mary Kate King during warmup before the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State women’s basketball game at Hilton Coliseum, Jan. 31, 2024. (Maeley Rosengren)

Crooks added more awards to her tally, with more Freshman of the Week honors and a couple of Big 12 Player of the Week awards. Not only did she get the attention of the conference, she inched closer to records held by former Iowa State players.

In February, Crooks passed two long-standing Iowa State records. She broke the record for most field goals made by an Iowa State freshman (previously 163) and most points scored by an Iowa State freshman (previously 460).

“I didn’t expect anything,” Crooks said. “I definitely didn’t expect to be breaking records my first year, let alone starting, playing and contributing in a significant way. So it’s gone a lot better than I would have anticipated.”

After all of the success in her first year at Iowa State, Crooks said the mental aspects were the most difficult parts of the transition to college. She added that there are higher expectations for college athletes than there were in high school.

Crooks’ teammates spoke highly of the type of impact she has had on the team this season.

“Huge impact,” freshman Arianna Jackson said. “If [Crooks’] stats haven’t shown what they have so far, I don’t know what could.”

“She’s been great,” freshman Kelsey Joens said. “You can always count on her inside. She’s really good around the basket, and then also defensively, she matches up great with other post players.”

“[Crooks] wants to learn,” senior Nyamer Diew said. “She is a great person off the court. She brings energy and excitement. It’s fun to be around her and fun to be her teammate.”

Audi Crooks gets the crowd standing during the ISU vs KSU basketball game at Hilton Coliseum, Feb. 14, 2024 (Elizabeth Lane)

Cyclone fans have embraced that energy every night Crooks plays at Hilton Coliseum. Crooks can be seen smiling and being a positive influence as she runs up and down the court after nearly every play.

Her personality shines through off the court wherever she goes. In the community, Crooks has gotten recognition and praise from many people.

“Audi’s everywhere,” Fennelly said. “When she walks in a room, it isn’t too long and the room is coming to Audi. She went down to the State Tournament and within 20 minutes, there’s a whole section of people that want to talk to her, want to get her autograph. Her personality just fits who she is and she doesn’t shy away from it.”

Crooks has quickly risen to become the face of the current Iowa State women’s basketball roster. In all, Crooks said it comes down to her becoming the best version of herself in all aspects of the game, as a player and a person.

“I focus less on proving others wrong than I do proving myself right,” Crooks said. “I knew that this was something that I wanted to do, and I knew that come hell or high water, I was going to do it.”

Crooks’ season can be summed up with the word she uses every day at practice: growth. She said it represents getting better and improving as a player, teammate and person.

“She is who she is,” Fennelly said. “She’s proud of it and she’s not going to change who she is and I think that’s a good thing.”

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  • L

    Landry Allen ford decker | Apr 20, 2024 at 9:00 pm

    She was a huge impact on the community for everyone she brought smiles and laughs into Iowa State.The last time I saw her was when they beat Oklahoma in the sweet sixteen.In my hearing of her I I’ve gotten three autographs from her.The next time I see her I’m going to have a chance to talk to her!

  • B

    Byron Simar | Mar 24, 2024 at 8:31 pm

    A heart warming story of a person who knows what she wants, overcoming obstacles, not only breaking records but stereotypes. She’s determined, brings a ton of energy, fun to watch play and an inspiration to many.

  • M

    Martha Adair | Mar 14, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    I watched her play in the Iowa state and Kansas st game. I thought the announcer for the tv show did her a disservice by calling her Big Girl . It was appalling in this day and age to label to put a label on her .you can tell she enjoys what she is doing and who she is . Announcer who called the game needs to apologize for being rude .

  • D

    Danny Waugh | Mar 6, 2024 at 6:44 pm

    It’s been a lot of fun watching Audi and this team play this year. Looking forward to another three years.