The Heartland College Sports spotlight is a chance to highlight some of the great student-athletes around the Big 12 Conference. This week, we were thrilled to be joined by Iowa State women’s basketball player Ashley Joens, who joined us to talk about her success both on, and off, the court.
The interview can also be heard on the Heartland College Sports podcast.
Pete Mundo: You have taken your passion off the court as a student teacher and applied it to the classroom while you’re still a college athlete. What is that story and what have you been doing on that front?
Ashley Joens: I’m really passionate about basketball, obviously, but also teaching as well and getting the opportunity to give back to the younger generation, not only on the court but in the classroom as well. And kind of using what I’ve learned through basketball to apply it to classroom work, whether that’s math or something that you’re maybe struggling with, knowing that even if you continue to work at it and struggle, that those little steps that you make are going to end up being very impactful in the future.
Mundo: What is your favorite part of being in the classroom with the students?
Joens: Yeah, I mean, it’s really fun just getting to know them as people not necessarily as students as well. And actually, I went and visited the classroom I was at in Indianola today because we had an off day, so they thought I forgot about them. And they were like, ‘Oh, you forgot about us.’ So I went back and they’re like, ‘do you remember our names?’ Just getting to know them as people because they’re more than just students. I mean, they all have a personality and they find it really cool to be able to watch our games on TV or be able to come to our games and it kind of gives them something to look forward to. That’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, I gotta go to school and do math or reading,’ but it’s something they can look forward to and see someone different that can share different stories that necessarily don’t relate to the in-classroom work.
Mundo: How does working at basketball camps and being a part of that apply to the classroom and vice versa?
Joens: Yeah, I mean, just the leadership aspect. These kids will look up to you as a teacher and, even in basketball camps, the kids look up to you as a coach, and someone who’s accomplished so much in my career so far, but they don’t realize that at one point I was in their shoes. I couldn’t dribble a basketball and dribbled it off my foot or I struggle with math and it’s hard for them to kind of grasp that concept of, it doesn’t just happen overnight, but it takes time. And if you continue to work at it and put in the time and effort, you’ll continue to get better and eventually it will seem like it’s easy to you. But it takes a lot of time and it’s not always easy.
Mundo: What is next for you when basketball at Iowa State is over?
Joens: Yeah, honestly, I hope to continue playing so I’ll enter the (WNBA) draft after this year, and hopefully continue playing for quite a while. But eventually, when I can’t play anymore I’ll head to the classroom and hopefully be able to teach. I started grad classes in administration, so maybe someday become a principal. So I’m really excited for what’s ahead but still focused on what’s going on now and what we have to look forward to in this season.
Mundo: When you think about where this team is, about a month out from the Stephanie Soares injury, it’s been kind of up and down since then. How do you feel like you guys are starting to figure things out?
Joens: Yeah, I mean, everybody’s tough and every team in the conference is gonna be a tough game. So we just have to continue to buy into what our coaches are saying, trust in each other and believe in ourselves and just go out and compete every game for the entire 40 minutes. I think even when we’re struggling to end games like we had a tough week this week. But we have to continue to keep pushing and keep continuing to learn and get better each day that we get into the gym.
Mundo: When you look at what is coming up for you guys and where you’ve been, is there something you guys have been working on rotationally that you as a player, or as a team, feel can be improved on right now?
Joens: I think the biggest thing is just buying into the defense. I think our defense can help lead into offense and then when our offense is going well it can help our defense as well. Just getting stops on defense can lead to some fast break points. Then when we score we’re able to set up our defense and it all kind of works together. So just figuring all that out and continuing to get better at that every day.
Mundo: What do you want your little sister’s (Kelsey Joens) career in Iowa State to be like given all the successes that you have had? How do you want to make sure she kind of molds her own person and personality?
Joens: Yeah, obviously Kelsey is excited to come to Iowa State and they have a really good class that will be coming in next year with some high recruits, and I think the biggest thing is just for her to continue to learn and grow each day. I mean, obviously, she’s been pretty successful at the high school level, but college is going to be more physical, more fast-paced, and she does have to learn how to buy into that and I think she’ll do a good job. I was very uncomfortable and she listens and she wants to get better and I think that’s the biggest thing.
Mundo: What does “Hilton Magic” mean to you and can you think back to the first time you felt it?
Joens: I think our fans are a huge part of what makes us successful especially when we’re playing at Hilton. I mean, if we get down in a game, the crowd can help bring us back they just bring so much energy and, I mean, I can’t think of a specific time necessarily off the top of my head. But I just, every time you run out on the court and you look around (and) Hilton is packed and our fans, no matter if the weather’s bad or not, they’re gonna show up and support us and it’s pretty amazing how much support and how much Iowa State means to the entire community and everyone that surrounds Iowa State.
Mundo: What is the best pitch that Ashley Joens could make today for Iowa State Women’s basketball for any top recruit in the country?
Joens: Yeah, I mean, if you’re gonna go to a school that really cares about you, not only as a player, but as a person, and not just the coaches but also the fans and your teammates, you want to (come to) Iowa State. Nothing compares to the support that we get every day. And I mean, the coaches that care so much about us, they want us to improve, get better each day, and really grow as players, as students, and as people. And so I’ve had an amazing time at Iowa State, I mean I wouldn’t change my decision for anything.
Mundo: What is it that Ashley Joens wants to be remembered for in Ames?
Joens: I’d say just always working hard. I mean, when things aren’t necessarily going my way, just continuing to work hard and putting in the effort and the time and trying to get better. I mean, it’s like a basketball game. It doesn’t stop. You make a mistake and you just gotta keep going. You got to keep playing and got to make up for missing a shot get back on defense and get a stop.
Mundo: How do you feel like these next couple of weeks will go, and can go, for you all before the Big 12 Tournament comes up in mid-March?
Joens: Yeah, I mean, it can go one of two ways. Hopefully, it goes in a good direction but we just have to get back on track here. Really listen to the coaches and buy into the scout and get ready to go for these next ones because every game is gonna be tough and every team in this conference I think is beatable. And we just have to come out ready to go every day for an entire 40 minutes.
Mundo: What is Kansas City like when it comes to putting on the show that is the Big 12 Tournament coming up next month?
Joens: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Especially with the men’s and women’s tournaments both being there. It brings a lot of fans and, like you said, our fans travel really well and so we usually have a pretty good crowd. It’s a lot of fun that you can get everybody there and excited to watch women’s basketball.
Mundo: You’re going to play basketball at the next level and then after that, you’re looking forward to being in administration. Would you be in Iowa? Is that a fair assessment? I don’t want to jump too far ahead, but what do you think?
Joens: I’m not sure. We’ll see where life takes me, but I very well could end up back in Iowa.
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