By Rob Gray
AMES — When each grueling practice winds down, Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly turns to a time-honored, mettle-testing tactic.
Score, or run.
Score, or keep working.
Score … well, just score.
Invariably, when faced with those prospects, Cyclone players turn toward No. 5.
Senior Hallie Christofferson.
The undisputed “face” of the ISU program — a farm kid from Hamlin who’s been tabbed by Big 12 coaches as a preseason first-team all-conference performer.
“Every play we run, the first option is her,” Fennelly said during Wednesday’s media day at the Sukup Basketball Complex. “Every play. Now, if we can do something off of that, we will, but that’s where you’ve got to start.”
The Cyclones begin finding No. 5 again when practice kicks off Friday.
ISU, coming off a 24-9 season in which it reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, will also seek to weather the absence of graduated senior forwards Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins.
They combined to average 38 percent of the team’s rebounds and 23 percent of its points last season, but their legacy rose above the numbers.
“They were such good examples of what it takes to be an Iowa State leader,” said Christofferson, who led the team with 15.6 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field last season. “To this day, we still talk to Anna and we still talk to Poppens. We can still take their advice if we need it.”
Fennelly sees the soft-spoken yet confident Christofferson blazing her own path now.
“Her career numbers are going to be staggering,” he said.
The 6-3 forward was one of two players last season to rank in the top 30 nationally in field goal shooting while attempting at least 60 3-pointers.
“I love playing with Hallie and the first person I look to on the floor whenever we play, even last year, was Hallie,” junior point guard Nikki Moody said. “Her style of play and my style of play kind of fit each other.”
Fennelly said he’ll field a four-guard team, which makes Moody nearly as much a “face” as Christofferson.
“We’ve always tried to run the ball at times, but sometimes our fast break is in slow motion,” Fennelly said. “Last year, Nikki had a lot of responsibilities.”
Now she’ll get to play faster — with junior two-guard Brynn Williamson alongside.
Add returner Kidd Blaskowsky and freshmen Jadda Buckley and Seanna Williams to the mix and the backcourt could be dynamic, if complementary.
“The main thing is keeping Hallie out of foul trouble,” said Williamson, who became the team’s toughest defender while draining a team-best 68 3-pointers. “She’s a huge part of our team.”
That’s No. 5.
She’s not a talker, she’s a doer.
“I have really great family ties, that I was able to grow up really well,” Christofferson said. “Coming from a farm, did all the farm work. Pretty typical farm girl.”
Actually, pretty rare, all things considered.
“To go, literally, from Exira (High School) to a unanimous all-Big 12 player, that’s quite a leap and certainly not one most people even think is possible, let alone happens,” Fennelly said.
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