The Iowa State Cyclones have quite possibly the most stable roster in Big 12 women’s basketball entering next season.
The Cyclones have seen little turnover. They’ve lost just two players to the transfer portal. And, all-time leading scorer Ashley Joens bypassed the WNBA to tap into her fifth year of eligibility with her COVID-19 waiver.
That stability should serve the Cyclones well next season after reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade. Having so few questions marks means the Cyclones can work on fine-tuning rather than overhauling.
Eleven players from last year’s roster are expected back, led by Joens, who won the Cheryl Miller Small Forward of the Year award for the second straight season and earned All-Big 12 First Team honors once again. She enters next season as the favorite to be the Big 12’s Player of the Year after averaging 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds last season.
Guards Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan both averaged in double figures, with Donarski averaging 14.3 points and Ryan 13.1 points. Donarski was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while Ryan was the league’s assist leader (249). Joens, Donarski and Ryan, along with fellow starter Nyamer Diew, will play in the USA Basketball 3X Nationals later this month.
In fact, the Cyclones return their entire starting lineup, with the last piece being forward Morgan Kane. She shared time inside with Beatriz Jordão. The Cyclones also have a solid bench piece in guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw and hope to develop players like forward Izzi Zingaro and forward Maggie Vick more this coming season.
The Cyclones lost two players to the transfer portal, and one is quite notable. Aubrey Joens, Ashley’s younger sister, left the program and joined Oklahoma. She started 15 games and averaged 6.2 points. She was also a 42.5 percent 3-point shooter. The Cyclones will miss that, but between Ashley Joens, Donarski and Ryan, the Cyclones have enough from the arc. The younger Joens’ departure opens up more chances for Espenmiller-McGraw, who shot 45.9 percent from the arc but only played 17 minutes per game.
Maddie Frederick, who averaged just a point per game, has not announced her new school.
Because the Cyclones have so many players coming back, they don’t have room for much. In November, the Cyclones signed guard Shantavia Dawkins as the only member of their 2022 recruiting class.
The other is an intriguing transfer, Stephanie Soares, who played four years for The Master’s University, an NAIA school in Santa Clarita, Calif. Soares is a two-time NAIA Player of the Year and three-time First Team All-American who averaged 20.5 points and 12.2 rebounds last season. She’s making a big jump to Division I, but at 6-foot-6 she becomes Iowa State’s tallest player and could make an impact inside. If Soares could at least be a consistent rebounder, that would take some of that burden off of Joens next season.
The Cyclones are likely to be considered a favorite in the Big 12 and for good reason. No team in the league has the collective experience returning that the Cyclones do. It also doesn’t hurt to have one of the game’s best returning players, either.
Iowa State Women’s Basketball Roster Update for 2022-23
Returning for 2022-23 (11): F Nyamer Diew, G Denae Fritz, G Emily Ryan, G Mary Kate King, G Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, F Izzi Zingaro, G Lexi Donarski, G-F Ashley Joens, C Beatriz Jordão, F Morgan Kane, F Maggie Vick.
Cyclones in transfer portal (2): G Aubrey Joens (Oklahoma), G Maddie Frederick.
Transfers entering program (1): F Stephanie Soares (Master’s University, NAIA).
Class of 2022 Signees (1): G Shantavia Dawkins (5-foot-10, Brampton, Ontario, Canada).
Projected starting lineup: F Nyamer Diew, G Emily Ryan, G Lexi Donarski, G-F Ashley Joens, F Morgan Kane.
Projected primary bench: G Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw, F Izzi Zingaro, C Beatriz Jordão, F Maggie Vick, F Stephane Soares.