Nia Washington commits to ISU 2016 recruiting class

Bill Fennelly, coach, stands up and yells at the Women’s Basketball exhibition game. Iowa State won 79-36 against Midwestern State University on Nov. 5.

Luke Manderfeld

After a high school basketball scrimmage on Tuesday night, future ISU guard Nia Washington and the rest of her teammates exited the court and filed into the locker room. Her coach, Sam Caldwell, didn’t. 

He stayed on the court and talked to ISU coach Bill Fennelly, discussing Washington’s future, and more specifically, her collegiate future at Iowa State. 

Caldwell entered the locker room in tears, which left Washington and her teammates confused. He passed a letter along. It was Washington’s letter of intent to play at Iowa State. 

Relief flooded Washington as she signed the letter that night, and her collegiate future was set. Iowa State announced the signing a day later, on Wednesday. 

But Washington’s recruiting trail wasn’t without heartbreak.

Before Washington even thought about Iowa State as a possibility, she had her eyes and heart set on Syracuse. She was being recruited as one of two guards the program intended to sign for the 2016 class.  

After an official visit to Syracuse, where Washington had the vibe that she and Kiara Smith, an AAU teammate, were going to be the two guards that Syracuse was going to sign, her confidence was high.

But the Orange signed another guard, which put Washington against Smith for the last spot. Smith got it. 

Washington felt upset because she didn’t get a letter from Syracuse after encouragement from her AAU coach. 

“It was kind of upsetting because of the fact that my AAU coach was leading me on this whole time, saying, ‘He’s going to offer. He really loves you,’” Washington said. “And the fact that it can go all away in one second is very disappointing because I put all of my eggs in one basket.”

Even though her first bout with recruiting didn’t go the way she wanted, Washington would get another chance.

After a summer camp at Georgia Tech, word reached ISU assistant coach Billy Fennelly of a 5-foot-6 point guard from Stafford, Va. Washington was told to expect a call from Billy. 

In that initial call, Billy described the atmosphere of Hilton Coliseum and sent YouTube links that described the style of play of the the program. 

Washington was hooked. 

“I’ve been watching Iowa State ever since four years ago,” Washington said. “I’ve always loved their program, loved coach Fennelly’s coaching and loved everything about it. It was a blessing that I’m actually going there now.”

Washington remained in contact with Billy while Bill was slated to attend a scrimmage. Before Bill came, the ISU coaching staff let Washington know that if she impressed during the scrimmage, she would get an offer after the game to play for the Cyclones. 

At the beginning of the game, Washington felt nervous with Bill overseeing her every move. She had to force herself to put it in the back of her mind.

“But then I kind of thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this. I just need to go out there and do what I do,’” Washington said. “If it is meant for me to go there, then it’s meant for me to go there. If it’s not, then it’s not. I just went out there and played like I play and just let loose.”

Whatever mindset she adapted worked. 

“Nia is a dynamic athlete who gives us much needed depth at point guard,” Bill said in a statement. 

Looking ahead to her role at Iowa State, Washington will bring a “floor general” ability to the team. Although she may not see the court as a starter in her first year, playing behind Jadda Buckley, one of her favorite players on the team, Washington sill brings unique aspects to the roster. 

“I believe that I’ll bring a leadership role,” Washington said. “As a point guard, you have to be extension of the coach. So I feel as though I’ll get my teammates involved and set them up for good passes and set them up for good shots.”

Washington joins a 2016 ISU women’s basketball recruiting class with two European players, Aliyah Konte and Adriana Camber, who were officially announced last Wednesday. 

While Washington is looking forward to her senior season at Riverdale Baptist High School, a top prep basketball school, she is still reveling in her decision to attend Iowa State after the year finishes. 

“I’m ecstatic,” Washington said. “Going to a place like Iowa State is tremendous.”