CN Bill Fennelly Exclusive: Part 1

Cyclone Nation had the opportunity to sit down with women's basketball Head Coach Bill Fennelly to talk about what's going on with his team this season. In 2004-05, Fennelly's team posted the seventh 20-win season in Iowa State history and the sixth in the Fennelly era. In this portion of the Cyclone Nation interview, Fennelly talks about key aspects of this year's season. This is a multi-part story that CN will be running over the next few weeks.

Williams: Can you talk just a little bit about your overall feelings on how this season has gone?


Fennelly: So far I've been very pleased. When you think about what we lost, we had five seniors that were the core of our team. We're playing a lot of players that have little or no division one experience and with Rachael Pearson's injury that kind of set us back a little bit but I've been very proud of our effort and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished up to this point. We're 11-4. We've won our in-state games. Our four losses are all to teams that will be in the NCAA tournament. I think we all want a little bit more but overall I think considering what we lost last year and what we lost to injury and what we're trying to learn, I'm very pleased.


Williams: You brought up Rachael Pearson's injury. Where do you think she'd be fitting in right now if she were playing?


Fennelly: She'd be our starting center. I don't think there's any question about that. She's the only legitimate back to the basket power player that we have. She played one game and played 15 minutes and had nine points and six rebounds. That was the plan when we recruited her but it didn't happen. She got hurt. Other players like Britney Wilkins have played well. It falls upon Nicky Wieben and Lisa Beldoux to play more minutes and at a higher level than maybe they're ready for. That's the nature of our team right now so it was a big loss but the other kids have done a good job of filling in so far and hopefully they will continue to get better.


Williams: How is Rachael doing right now?


Fennelly: She's doing well. She had her surgery a week ago on January 9. It went really well. She started rehab and probably from the day of surgery until she's back on the court they're talking six months. We can be extremely conservative. Obviously she's not going to play this year. The next game isn't until next November. We're going to do it right in the sense that we want her to get better. When you talk about an injury like that, you have to think about a person's long term health. There aren't too many 18 year old kids that have an operation on their back. We need to make sure that we're not only conservative and careful to get her back ready to play but her long term health has to be the main thing that we look at. She feels better. There's no leg pain from the nerve. I think she's encouraged and she's got a lot of hard work ahead of her. It's not any fun but it's got to be done.


Williams: How is she doing emotionally right now?


Fennelly: She was really down for a while but I think once the decision was made to finally have the surgery instead of trying different things. She now has less pain, she's stiff but the leg pain from the pinched nerve was driving her crazy. I think once that went away she felt a lot better and she knows now. She's a very bright kid and she's in much better spirits now that she knows what's ahead of her. She's actually feeling a lot better.


Williams: In your mind how are the rest of the freshmen developing?


Fennelly: I think Nicky (Wieben) and Heather (Ezell) have done really well. Obviously they've started every game for us. We've asked them to do things that they're probably not ready for. They've handled it great. They play a lot of minutes. They play at a high level. They work hard in practice. I think Gillian (Bjerke) and Amanda (Nisleit) are more of a work in progress. That's more normal for a freshman, having to learn the system and to learn the speed of the game. Both of them aren't in the mix getting a lot of minutes. That's probably what we thought going in. Nicky and Heather have both emerged as very critical pieces to the puzzle and hopefully during these next six weeks Gillian and Amanda will continue to get better so when we need them for some minutes, they'll produce.





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