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Iowa State Daily

Women’s basketball end of season awards

Joseph Dicklin
Iowa State players Kelsey Joens (23), Audi Crooks (55), Addy Brown (24), Emily Ryan (Hidden) and Arianna Jackson (2) huddle together discussing their next play on March 12, 2024, at the Big 12 Tournament Final.

Most Valuable Player

Pavle Markovic: Emily Ryan

Despite missing the first nine games of the season with a leg injury, Ryan came back and looked as if she had not missed the beginning of the season. Even with being on a minutes restriction to start out the beginning of her season, the “Floor General” made her impact felt on a young Iowa State team.

Ryan ended her season on a strong note despite the Cyclones falling to Stanford in the Round of 32, as she put up a 36-point performance on a season-high 43 minutes played.

Even despite missing nine games, Ryan led the team in assists (6.9), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.8) while averaging 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

With Ryan announcing her return for the 2024-25 season, expect big things to come for a Cyclone team looking to outdo their Round of 32 appearance.

Brett Twelmeyer: Addy Brown

When I think of an MVP award, I think of someone who changes the game in multiple ways. For basketball, that would be someone who can score, rebound, defend and do everything in between.

That player is Addy Brown.

Brown led the team with 8.2 rebounds per game, tied for the most blocks with 18 and was second in scoring at 13 points per game and a 3-point percentage of 38.8%. She played at so many different positions as well, point guard in some games when Ryan was out, and could hold her own down low.

It is hard to believe Brown is only a freshman the way she impacted many games on offense and defense. It is no surprise she led the team in double-doubles and was the only Cyclone to start all 33 games. When Brown created shots and got blocks, Iowa State won games.

Brown made the Big 12 All-Freshman team and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. She will definitely be in contention to be a First-Team selection next season.

Most Improved Player

Markovic: Kelsey Joens

With Joens committing to the same school that her sisters played for, the expectations were high for the Iowa City, Iowa, native to start her freshman year.

While Joens may not have had the biggest impact in terms of scoring, her presence was felt in every other physical aspect of the game, as Joens was constantly complimented on her physical play by head coach Bill Fennelly.

In her 19.2 minutes per game, Joens averaged 5.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and was tied for second on the team with 0.8 steals per game. Joens’ play also earned her six starts during the 33 games she played in this season.

With the absence of Belanger for next season, Joens could find her way into the starting lineup to fill Belanger’s role of being a 3-point shooter. Joens finished third on the team with 40 makes from beyond the arc.

Twelmeyer: Arianna Jackson

Thrust into a starting role in the first game of the season, the progression of Arianna Jackson was fun to watch. Ryan took the freshman under her wing and helped mold her into the player that continued to be a starter late in the season.

Jackson was praised for her defensive abilities by Fennelly and by her teammates. She found her way on offense when Big 12 games began, and she was efficient from beyond the arc with a 41.3% 3-point percentage.

With Ryan returning, Jackson has even more time to learn from one of the best point guards in Iowa State history. I think Jackson will improve even more next season and should remain a starter.

Newcomer of the Year

Markovic: Audi Crooks

When thinking of newcomers, you might think of transfers coming into the Big 12, but the freshmen are also newcomers.

This is the exact reason why I have Crooks’ name on this award. I believe she was the best newcomer that the Cyclones had this past season.

It has been no secret that Crooks dominated her first season with a near 20 point-per-game average on a 57.7 field goal percentage to go along with 7.8 rebounds per game.

Crooks’ play also helped her obtain a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team and Freshman Team while being runner-up to Texas’ Madison Booker for the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award.

Even despite not starting out the year as the team’s starting center, Crooks has established herself as a rising star that is only looking to continue a successful freshman campaign.

Twelmeyer: Hannah Belanger

Belanger was one of, if not my favorite player on this roster, and she filled in what would have been a blank space for Iowa State. After four seasons at Truman State, Belanger finished her career as a Cyclone and was the go-to from beyond the arc.

Belanger’s play style translated well not only to Iowa State, but to the Big 12, and she quickly became a big star. She shot 74-for-190 from deep in her lone season at Iowa State and was third in the conference for 3-pointers.

Belanger started all but one game in her final season. Her biggest performance came at home against Kansas, where she shot 6-for-10 from the perimeter. Without her ability to knock down threes, I do not think Iowa State would have found the success it did.

It is disappointing that Belanger was only around for one season, but I am glad she brought her talents to Iowa State for her final college basketball season. I will miss seeing her light opponents up from deep.

Most Surprising Player

Markovic: Hannah Belanger

I found Belanger to be the Cyclones’ most surprising player, strictly on the fact of how quickly she adjusted from Division II to Division I basketball.

Coming from Truman State, Belanger dominated her way through the Bulldogs’ competition in the four years she played for the program.

Belanger then decided to end her collegiate career with a fifth year at Iowa State. That meant that the Grafton, Wisconsin, native had to make the jump.

Safe to say, Belanger handled the transition in a positive way, as she finished the season averaging 9.3 points per game on a 39.4 field goal percentage. The one thing that Belanger did that stood out from the rest of the team was the amount of 3-pointers taken. Belanger led the team in three-point makes (74) and attempts (190) as she found her success from beyond the arc.

While her collegiate career has come to an end, there is no doubt that if the Cyclones did not have Belanger, they would not have had the success that they had this season without a doubt.

Twelmeyer: Audi Crooks

Now, I am not saying I was surprised that Crooks was a good player. I was surprised with how she exceeded expectations.

Crooks was bound to have an impact in her freshman year, especially as the go-to center for the majority of the season. She shot 57.7%, averaged 19.2 points per game and had 17 games with 20+ points.

Her efforts were rewarded with an All-Big 12 First Team honor, Big 12 All-Freshman Team honor and she made the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. Crooks was the first freshman to score 40 points in an NCAA Tournament game and shot 90% in that same game.

Along with the accolades, Crooks broke the Iowa State freshman season scoring record, made the most field goals made in a season all-time at Iowa State and broke the freshman free throw record.

Get used to it, Crooks is just getting started.

Most Exciting to watch

Markovic: Addy Brown

While Crooks dominated the paint and Ryan helped facilitate the offense and had a major defensive presence, one player that helped contribute to these factors was Brown.

Coming into Iowa State, Brown was used for Derby as the team’s point guard, despite being 6-foot-2 and having the frame of a forward. While being listed as a forward, it gave the Cyclones another advantage having an experienced ball handler at a bigger size, which especially helped when Ryan was out for the first nine games of the season.

On top of her ball handler abilities, Brown showcased her ability to rebound the ball well, as she led the team with 8.2 rebounds per game.

Down the stretch of the season, Brown was also known as one of the team’s better free throw shooters, which was key in Iowa State’s double overtime win against Kansas State, where she went a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

With Brown’s play this season, she joined Crooks on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team and earned an All-Big 12 honorable mention. Her play will be something to continue to look forward to for a team looking to soar far next season.

Twelmeyer: Emily Ryan

When it was announced that Ryan would be out to begin the season, no one knew when, or if, she would play at all. I think if she had not played after recovering, Iowa State likely would have fared worse than it did.

Known as the ‘Floor General,’ Ryan lived up to her nickname. She led the team in assists, had six games with over 10 assists and broke the all-time Iowa State assists record with 782.

The ability Ryan has to see plays before they develop and place passes perfectly is amazing to watch. Ryan lets the plays come to her, does not force too many passes and puts her teammates in the positions they need to be to score.

Not only was she a great facilitator, Ryan shot 48.7% from the field and 43.5% from three. A lot of her 3-pointers came when the Cyclones desperately needed them. Her ability to drive to the hoop and score when teammates were not open was a highlight every time.

Ryan had the game of her career against Stanford with 36 points and shot 6-for-9 from three, putting the team on her back when they needed her most. She will return next season and will have the opportunity to top that total and add to her already high assist numbers.

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Joseph Dicklin, Author
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