AMES — If there’s a current face for the Iowa State women’s basketball program, it belongs to charge-taking, elbow-swinging, and rebound-hoarding Aplington native Chelsea Poppens.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a player, a person that really does define what we’re about more than Chelsea does,” said Coach Bill Fennelly, whose team seeks a program record-extending seventh straight trip to the NCAA tournament. “I think any coach here, including (football coach Paul) Rhoads would love to have Chelsea on their team. She could be on special teams. She could do whatever.”
And the preseason all-Big 12 performer doesn’t need much time to do it. A senior post player, Poppens required just 26.8 minutes a game to average double figures in points (14.2) and rebounds (10.6) last season.
Among Big 12 players, only Baylor superstar Brittney Griner notched more double-doubles (18). Poppens had 14 — including eight in league play.
So what’s it like being the face of the program?
“I feel a little bit more pressure to compete,” said Poppens, who hopes to help lead ISU to greater heights after an 18-13 season in 2011-12. “And to show my ability — to improve from last year. That’s mainly the only pressure I feel so far.”
Poppens stands front and center among a team that returns three full-time starters (point guard Nikki Moody and forward Hallie Christofferson are the others) and two with starting experience (shooting guard Brynn Williamson and forward Anna Prins).
Moody made the all-Big 12 freshman team while dishing out 133 assists.
“But 110 turnovers is too many,” Fennelly said. “The thing I’ve told her plenty of times is if the highlight on her resume is she made the all-Big 12 freshman team, she didn’t do her job and I didn’t do my job.”
Part of Moody’s job is providing leadership for backcourt newcomers Emiah Bingley and Nicole “Kidd” Blaskowsky.
“As soon as practice starts and things start getting hard, I feel like I can step up and be that voice,” Moody said.
Christofferson, a junior, continued to develop as a scorer and shooter last season, draining 45 percent of her 3-pointers in conference play while averaging 10.2 points.
“I’m hoping to bring a little bit more from the perimeter,” she said. “I’ve worked on dribbling and the 3-spot more this summer. We’ll see how that goes.”
There’s little uncertainty when it comes to Poppens’ direction.
“You guys see her play and how hard she plays,” Fennelly said. “But if you came to practice, that’s how Pop is every single day. We almost have to pull her out a little bit to slow her down. She has a chance to have a monster year.”
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