Inside Ashley Joens’ decision to return to Iowa State


Ashley Joens smiles as she watches her three point attempt during 67–44 game against Georgia on March 20. 

Aaron Hickman

Ashley Joens made the big announcement she would opt to return to Iowa State and return for a fifth season Monday afternoon, setting the stage for one last ride with the Cyclone great heading into next season.

Joens choosing not to pursue a career in the WNBA at this time goes with the idea that the Cyclones could be even better next season with essentially the same cast and crew in place.

Attributing her return to the growth of Emily Ryan, Lexi Donarski, Nyamer Diew and her younger sister Aubrey as factors in her decision and her understanding of how she fits in with that group, Joens believes there are heights that can still be reached.

“We have more that we wanna accomplish,” Joens said.

Speaking with her parents Sunday morning and telling her coaches that afternoon, Joens waited until the team’s end-of-the-year meeting Monday to break the news to her teammates in person.

In the theater room at the Sukup Basketball Complex, where the team watches film, Joens was met with clapping and cheering when she made her announcement.

Maybe no teammate was happier than Ryan, who Joens’ eyes went to after she was done speaking. The sophomore point guard had been anxiously awaiting the decision, texting Joens a couple of times to try and figure out which way she was leaning.

“She was just kind of asking where I was at, what I was thinking,” Joens said. “She was like, ‘I’d really like to play with you another year, I’d do anything to get to play with you another year.’”

Joens had an idea where she was leaning already, but hearing from Ryan and seeing how much she cared made an impact.

Ryan’s wish being granted was partly due to the hard work that she has put in, along with all of her teammates, and the fact that there can still be plenty more growth this offseason. That’s the message that Joens tried to convey Monday.

“Just letting them know how special they all were and what they meant to me, and that they were the reason I’m coming back, really,” Joens said.

One more year with her younger sister Aubrey was also a special opportunity to consider.

The soon-to-be junior averaged over six points per game and just under five rebounds while shooting from beyond the arc at a 42.5 percent clip. With another offseason under her belt after this summer, the marksman has room to grow even more.

“It’s a lot of fun playing with Aubrey,” Joens said. “Kind of getting another year to live out our childhood dream of playing together in college is exciting and I think we’re both ready for it.”

A fifth-year with Bill Fennelly is another thing that Joens finds exciting. As she hopes to continue her own growth as a player, Fennelly’s coaching style is something that Ashley finds special to work with.

With a professional career in the WNBA still being the goal after the 2022–23 season, that room for improvement is something that Fennelly can be a big part of.

“He’s gonna push you and ask you to step out of your comfort zone,” Joens said. “Just kind of knowing that even though he’s gonna be hard on you he still cares and he wants the best for you. I think just kind of understanding and getting the opportunity to play with him again, and kind of continuing to learn from him from a basketball standpoint is really exciting.”

Academically, the plan is for Joens to get her student teaching done in the fall and begin work on her master’s next spring.