- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

AMES, Iowa (AP) - With Hallie Christofferson on the floor, the Iowa State women’s basketball team always had a No. 1 option, an All-Big 12 performer who usually delivered when needed.

But Christofferson and her 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game are gone.

So who fills that role this season?

Coach Bill Fennelly and his players will start trying to figure that out when practice begins next Wednesday.

Seniors Brynn Williamson and Nikki Moody, both three-year regulars, spring immediately to mind.

“I think we have five different options,” Williamson said Thursday during the team’s media day. “Whoever has the ball in their hands at a particular moment is bound to make something good happen.”

Moody, who has started at point guard throughout her career, was more definitive about the program’s biggest question mark.

“I’m hoping I can take that role,” she said. “But we’ll find out when the year gets going.”

Moody led the Big 12 in assists as a sophomore and was the team’s No. 2 scorer last season, averaging 12.5 points and 5.3 assists. Fennelly said she could be as good as any point guard in the league.

Williamson averaged 9.4 points and led the team with 66 3-point baskets as the Cyclones went 20-11 overall, 9-9 in the Big 12 and played in the NCAA tournament for the eighth straight season.

Even if neither becomes the top scorer, Fennelly expects a lot from the two veterans simply because they’re seniors. Whatever the legacy of this season’s team, they’ll have a lot to do with it, he said.

“When you walk out of here on the last night you play on senior night, are people excited for you and proud of you? Or are they excited to see you go?” Fennelly said. “It’s up to them to decide what category they want to be in.”

Williamson said she’s ready for that role.

“There’s a lot of talk about the pressure and how scary it is. A lot of people don’t want that,” Williamson said. “I think it’s a good thing. I really look at it that it’s not about pressure. It’s about leading on and off the court, it’s about making shots, it’s about listening to coach and then passing that on to the younger players.”

Iowa State has plenty of youngsters in need of that leadership.

Christofferson is the only one missing from what essentially was a six-player rotation last season. But the Cyclones have three returnees who played sparingly last year and five freshmen.

“I was able to sit back and let the seniors lead when I was younger. Now that I’m a senior, I have to step up and be that (leader),” Moody said. “I don’t feel it’s pressure. I feel it’s an opportunity to leave something behind, and I’m going to do the best that I can with it.”

The Cyclones also need big seasons from sophomores Jadda Buckley and Seanna Johnson, both members of the Big 12’s all-freshman team last season.

The 5-foot-10 Johnson led the team in rebounding (8.1) while averaging 10.2 points.

Fennelly would like to see Buckley shoot more after the former Mason City all-stater shot 40 percent from 3-point range and averaged 10.9 points.

The Cyclones need to improve their overall 3-point shooting though. They hit just 33 percent from 3s as a team.

“We’ve got a lot of shooters on this team,” said Fennelly, who’s starting his 20th season at Iowa State. “We need more makers.”

Better shooting would help mitigate the team’s biggest weakness: inexperience in the post. A couple of freshman, 6-5 Bryanna Fernstrom and 6-3 Claire Ricketts, need to develop quickly. While they’re learning, the Cyclones are likely to play five guards at times.

“There is a lot of good big kids in our league, so hopefully over the next couple of months we can find some people we can trust and go to and eat up the minutes we need,” Fennelly said. “We have no one who’s going to be as good as Hallie Christofferson. But hopefully as a group we can find some people who can do that.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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