Iowa State women’s basketball sets high expectations for Lexi Donarski
AMES – When Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly learned that Lexi Donarski was named last season’s Big 12 Freshman of the Year, he ushered the guard into his office.
Fennelly wanted to congratulate her first. But he also wanted to motivate her. Fennelly told Donarski the award couldn’t be the highlight of his Iowa State career.
If so, both had failed in the rest of his development.
“It was exciting, but it was also the reality of everything I still have so many things I want to work on and improve on in the future,” Donarski said on the media day of the ‘Iowa State Wednesday. “It’s really just focusing on keeping improving and helping this team every year and not just being happy with something that I have accomplished in the past.”
Donarski still has a long way to go in his career in Iowa State. She’s off to a good start after an impressive freshman campaign during the 2020-21 season. Donarski, a five-star rookie out of high school with high expectations upon arriving at college, lived up to them.
She immediately secured a starting spot and became a key contributor, averaging 13 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2 assists per game while shooting 40.5% from the field and connecting on a record. of 53 3 points.
Other Iowa State Coverage:
The success has earned him many accolades. Donarski was a unanimous member of the Big 12 All-Freshman team and has been named Conference Freshman of the Week five times. The biggest honor she received was being named the league’s top rookie. But Fennelly believes Donarski is only scratching the surface of his potential. That’s why he quickly got to work to motivate her for the following season.
It’s a similar conversation Fennelly has had with other freshmen who have produced great seasons.
“She wants to be trained hard and she wants to be a great player – she really does,” Fennelly said. “And she has this charge.”
It showed up this summer. When the players returned home in May, Donarski did not take time off. Instead, she walked into the basketball gym at her parents’ house in Wisconsin and went to work. With the help of his father Dave, Donarski tried to expand his game by working on individual movements and different types of shots. She also tried to become more “explosive” in the way she drove to the hoop.
“I feel like it went really well,” Donarski said. “I feel like I’m in a better position than last year to enter this season because I know what to expect and I know what it’s like to play in the Big 12 and the NCAA tournament and stuff like that. So I think a year of experience will be really beneficial for me this year.
Fennelly is counting on it. Expectations were high for Donarski and the rest of his recruiting class, the most decorated in the history of the program in the history of the program, arrives. Two other class members, Aubrey Joens and Emily Ryan, are also back. Joens has become a valuable shooter for most of the season off the bench. Ryan ran the point for Iowa State. The Cyclones also bring back Joens’ sister, Ashley, who is entering her fourth season from the start.
But Fennelly, who lost four players a season ago and has five newcomers to his roster, will rely heavily on sisters Joens, Ryan and Donarski. Fennelly still has question marks surrounding the Iowa Stat post-game, including who will start and how many minutes each player will register in it. Fennelly could go with freshmen Maggie Vick or Izzi Zingaro, transfer Beatriz Jordao or Morgan Kane senior.
But one area he feels confident in is the Iowa State backcourt, because he has players he knows he can count on. This includes Donarski.
“She played a huge role last year and it’s going to get even bigger,” Fennelly said.
Even though Iowa State has undergone seven workouts so far, Donarski has already shown that she has made tremendous progress.
“It’s been a huge difference, just her complete game – attacking the basketball, being able to shoot and defensively – she’s a versatile player for sure,” said Ashley Joens.
Donarski hopes his off-season work pays off. It has fairly important goals. Donarski wants to be a first-team selection at all conferences and play professionally.
Fennelly thinks anything is possible.
“She’s off to a great start this year,” Fennelly said.
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports company and trade journalist, has worked for the newspaper since 2008. He is the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sports Writer of the Year. Reach it at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on twitter @TommyBirch.