AMES — Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly doesn’t have to look up to know who’s in the gym when he’s in his office and he hears the ball bouncing early in the morning.
It’s the same person roommate Emily Durr oftentimes can’t find when she wakes up for her 8 a.m. classes.
“I’m here a lot, my wife likes it when I’m here a lot,” Fennelly said. “And when I’m in here there aren’t very many times when I don’t hear a ball bouncing. I know it’s No. 21 on the gun or No. 21 down here shooting free throws.”
No. 21 is junior Bridget Carleton, who Fennelly repeatedly called Iowa State’s hardest worker during Tuesday’s media day.
Carleton averaged 15 points per game last season, which was second on the team behind Seanna Johnson, who graduated. Carleton also pulled down 5.7 rebounds per game, also good for second, and had the third-most assists on the team with 1.8.
“I wouldn’t trade Bridget Carleton for any player in the country — and I mean that. Every coach probably says that, but Bridget is the leader of our team,” Fennelly said. “The thing about Bridget that I like the most — every coach will tell you the same thing — when your best player is your hardest worker, you have a chance. And it’s not even close.”
Fennelly and the Cyclones have a young basketball team with five newcomers. Carleton’s work ethic and leadership will be vital.
“I want to be a leader this year, it’s my third year,” Carleton said. “I know what it takes to play at the Big 12 level, to play for Iowa State and to play for Coach Fennelly. So just helping the younger kids because they’re going to be huge for us since we’re a younger team.”
Carleton isn’t necessarily the vocal leader of the team. That title goes to the lone-returning senior on the team, Durr.
Durr averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season. But statistics aren’t what motivates her. She could care less about them.
“(Leadership) is probably what I take the most pride in,” Durr said. “Not statistics or points or rebounds, I think being known as a leader is really humbling and really exciting.”
But it’ll be up to Carleton to see how far the Cyclones can go.
“I want to be the best I can for this team for the next two years,” Carleton said.
This season, Carleton has worked on creating her own shots more, instead of being a spot-up shooter like she was previously. The 6-foot-1 Carleton also worked on finishing at the rim and her pull-up game.
Fennelly said Carleton has a chance to go down as one of the best Iowa State women’s basketball players of all time.
“She’s going to have a career that rivals a lot of great players here,” Fennelly said. “We’re just really lucky to have her and lucky that she has two years left to play.”
“She’s definitely the greatest player I’ve played with,” Durr said. “I think she can take us really far. We want to make the tournament and we want to make a deep run in the tournament. She could take us anywhere she wants to take us, and we’re all on board.”