By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Ashley Joens had offers to play basketball all over the country.
For the City High junior the opportunity to play in Iowa proved too good to pass up.
One of the top recruits in the country, Joens verbally committed to Iowa State on Sunday evening after attending the Cyclones’ 75-67 win over Drake.
A five-star prospect, the 5-foot-11 Joens is ranked as the No. 16 player in the Class of 2018 and the top player in Iowa by ESPN.
“Staying close to home was a big part of it,” Joens said. “Then when I went on my visit I liked the coaches and the players. I liked everything about Iowa State. It was all great.”
Joens collected around 20 scholarship offers, selecting Iowa State over programs like Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Drake.
She visited Iowa State twice during the fall and on Sunday pledged to join the Cyclones in the fall of 2018.
“I think me committing early helps them recruit other players so that they can continue to build the program,” Joens said. “That was a big part too.”
Joens burst onto the prep scene as a freshman, averaging 18.7 points per game on her way to Class 5A all-state honors.
She improved on those numbers last season, ranking third in 5A with 19.3 points per game while adding 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
A versatile athlete who can play inside or with the ball in her hands, Joens shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season and has led 5A in free throw attempts each of the past two seasons.
“She is skilled, she is consistent, she has good size in the back court, makes good decisions with the ball and she just knows how to play,” said Dan Olson the Owner of Collegiate Basketball Report who compiles recruiting rankings for ESPN. “There are so many kids out there in this world today that are playing basketball that aren’t fundamentally skilled in any way comparative to this kid.”
Joens earned offers from Illinois and Drake following her sophomore year before a strong summer playing with the All Iowa Attack boosted her national recruiting stock.
When the NCAA open recruiting period began in September the text messages, phones calls and scholarship offers began to pour in.
“As it kept going I kind of got tired of the phone calls so just to get it off my chest felt good,” Joens said. “It was fun but it was stressful and I was really busy so I was hard to keep everything straight. I knew where I wanted to go.”
Ultimately it was the opportunity to play close to home that helped Joens pick Iowa State.
Her older sister Courtney is a freshman at Illinois while her sister Aubrey will be a freshman on the City High team this season.
Joens also has a sister in sixth grade and her youngest sister is in pre-school.
“I wanted to stay in the Midwest really,” Joens said. “As I kept going through the process I really liked the idea of staying in state and staying close to my family.”
Iowa State was 13-17 last year and is off to a 3-0 start this season.
The Cyclones have made 16 NCAA tournament appearances in 21 seasons under head coach Bill Fennelly and had a string of 12 consecutive postseason appearances end last year.
“I wanted to go to a team where we could win,” Joens said. “I also wanted to be part of a team that I could help win even more.”
Joens becomes the second five-star prospect to pledge to the Cyclones in the last week.
Madison Wise, the No. 45 ranked player in the 2017 recruiting class announced last week she was signing with the Cyclones.
Wise is a 6-foot-1, forward from Greenfield, Indiana.
The Cyclones already have a verbal commitment from Indianola sophomore Maggie McGraw.
“I’ve never really talked to her but I’ve heard about her and I know she is a great player,” Joens said of Wise. “I’ve played with Maggie so I know her and it’s exciting to know I’ll be able to play with players like that.”