April 23, 2024

She Reminds Me of…

Current Cyclone WBB player giving you deja vu? You're not alone... Here's four comparisons that should have everyone excited about what's to come for Iowa State women's basketball!

Photo Courtesy of Iowa State Women's Basketball

The number of freshmen Iowa State women’s basketball is relying on this year — not just a couple, but a full lineup of five — is uncharted territory for the Cyclones. However, they’ve long had the philosophy that whoever is ready, plays, leading to a great number of four-year contributors over the years. Audi Crooks and Addy Brown are making headlines, but the rest of the newcomers have made solid starts to their careers thus far and will almost certainly be earning notoriety of their own moving forward.

To contextualize what could be, I was asked for some player comparisons for Jalynn Bristow, Arianna Jackson, and Kelsey Joens. I wracked my brain for former ISU players that I thought compared in their abilities and playstyle, then pulled statistics from their freshmen campaigns to see how apt the comparison was by the numbers. I’ve included those stats, going by numbers per 40 minutes instead of per game to account for differences in playing time. Few ISU teams have had a nine-person rotation, so playing time is at a premium this year, but the calculation per 40 allows us to evaluate on a level plane. I included the former players’ career stats to give a glimpse of their trajectories, and expanded a bit on what’s similar between each pair, what differs, and what I see for the future of each current freshman. As a bonus, I included Isnelle Natabou and a former player with a similar path to Iowa State and what that could mean for her final year in Ames.

Jalynn Bristow: Kristin Scott

Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

Kristin’s listed height is an inch taller, but JB is so long and has such bounce that the height difference feels minimal, especially since Jalynn is primarily on the perimeter. Kristin developed a solid face-up game and shooting ability but didn’t come in as developed there as Jalynn, which makes sense since she was playing the 5. JB’s ability to post up, both in mismatches and just in general, plus her perimeter ability are like a later-career Kristin. Defensively, she’s a step quicker and has SUCH good instincts. With experience, she’ll be able to mitigate some of the miscues that can come with gambling — which we’ve seen decline as this season wears on — and has the potential to be an elite defender.

On the glass, Kristin’s best season was her freshman year, possibly due to greater team need. Even so, JB is just behind Kristin in rebounds per 40, another example of her terrific basketball instincts. She’s also shown a great aptitude for “playmaking,” whether that be a tough pass/catch or steal. Turnovers are largely mitigated by those tough plays and her offensive efficiency — ninth in the league in conference points per attempt!

Considering the balance in this freshman class, knowing all five make a cohesive lineup and the implications of developing that going forward, her versatility becomes even more key in adapting to whatever opponents throw at them. A 6’ 2″ three-man capable of hitting the three, rebounding, guarding guards, and swatting shots? Good luck gameplanning for that!

Arianna Jackson: Heather Ezell

Ajez Label
Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

When I think tough-as-nails, do-it-all guards, Ez is the blueprint at ISU. Both players, listed at 5’ 9″, rely more on toughness and outworking opponents as opposed to being taller or quicker. AJ does have a quick first step that she’s figuring out how to use in college, a skill that will also be easier to showcase if Iowa State can maintain a two-PG system.

Arianna’s higher free throw rate also impacts her 2-point percentage — she takes tough shots, but gets rewarded for the attempts fairly often and doesn’t force too many. Heather was solid from distance, but a bit more of a volume shooter; AJ’s 3-point percentage is better than any season of Ez’s career, just on fewer attempts per 40. Assist and rebounding percentages are near identical as freshmen, too, and I think Heather’s higher steal numbers correlate with how good of a defender AJ is but in a different defensive system.

Emily Ryan’s return took some weight off AJ as a ballhandler in conference play, buying her some time to get comfortable with the level of pressure in the Big 12. As a smaller player, she may not have as easy of a time passing out of the press as Ryan or Addy Brown, but continuing to develop her handles and using her quickness will mitigate much of her potential height disadvantage.

AJ was perhaps the least-discussed member of her class coming in, but her defense alone has caught the eye of fans and opponents. Add to that her shooting and the many indications that she has so much more potential than just a “3-and-D” player, this lifelong Cyclone will certainly be a big asset in Ames.

Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society
Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

Kelsey Joens: Brynn Williamson

Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

The 2011-12 team is perhaps the last time a roster had as much depth as this year; eight players started seven or more games (though one transferred at semester) and an additional two played in most games. While the other comparisons played more minutes than their modern counterparts, Brynn and Kelsey are on fairly even footing there. Both have made major impacts in their first year while playing around 20 minutes per game.

The two things that stand out most about Kelsey, her rebounding and steals, are very similar to Brynn’s freshman year percentage-wise, with an edge to Kelsey in both. In fact, Brynn’s total rebound percentage and assist percentage both sat around 7 percent, while Kelsey’s are both about 10 percent — definitely notable as far as all-around impact. Kelsey also shoots a higher percentage from the floor and from three, just on fewer attempts, and has a nearly 2.5 times higher free throw rate; her ability to attack and draw a foul is huge, especially for an over 80 percent foul shooter.

Kelsey can score, and she’ll certainly have more opportunities to do so moving forward, but her well-roundedness is what raises her ceiling. She’s already an elite rebounder from the guard spot, her assist/turnover ratio is a positive indicator of her distributing ability, and her steals come from good instincts and aggression, especially in help defense. Adjusting to the pace of college play on the defensive end is one of the toughest asks of young players, but if her capability in help defense can be even remotely translated to on-ball, this team will be formidable on both ends of the floor.

Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society
Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

Isnelle Natabou: Ines Nezerwa

Nellines 1
Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society

Though not a freshman, newcomer Isnelle Natabou has had plenty to adjust to in her first year as a Cyclone. Going from a community college, to two years at Sacramento State, to the P5 level at ISU, Nelly has played a key role off the bench. Her numbers at Sac State were eye-popping, but lower efficiency is to be expected when making such a jump in competition. Even so, her stats per 40 stayed fairly steady, so increasing her comfort level could lead to some impressive results.

There aren’t a lot of post players that make that kind of jump, partially because height and strength like Natabou’s is at such a premium that plenty of players get high-level opportunities right away. Coming from overseas landed her on a different sort of path, which is part of why she makes me think of Ines Nezerwa’s career at ISU. Ines came straight from a junior college and they differ stylistically, but both would be classified as post players making a big jump late in their career. Ines played fewer minutes in her first year than Nelly, which can inflate the stats per 40 a bit, but I’m looking more at the trends from year one to two.

Her minutes per game nearly doubled while maintaining similar shooting efficiency, better defensive stats, and fewer fouls and turnovers. Isnelle has such tremendous potential, so a full offseason working with the ISU staff and team after spending most of last summer with her national team could mean big things for her development. She’s shown the ability to guard outside, so that level of versatility could allow for some interesting lineups in the future.

Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society
Ted Flint | The Tailgate Society
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Jamie Steyer
Jamie Steyer 13 Articles
Staff Writer

Jamie Steyer Johnson is a diehard Cyclone fan, serving as a WBB analyst after being raised in the athletic department. Outside of athletics, her interests include creating art, watching movies, reading, and a little bit of everything else.

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