AMES — Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly has thought about locking her out. Maybe turning the lights out or taking the basketballs away. Anything to keep standout point guard Emily Ryan from virtually living in the Sukup Basketball Complex.
“We’re gonna have to come up with something,” Fennelly joked.
But he can’t bring himself to do it. Ryan’s the most durable player for the No. 18 Cyclones (13-4, 5-2). She ranks ninth nationally among Power 6 programs — and first in the Big 12 — in minutes played per game at 35.28, and she’ll almost certainly be on the floor every second she’s needed in Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup with TCU (6-12, 0-7) in Fort Worth.
“Every coach dreams of a kid like that,” Fennelly said of Ryan, who has played every minute of a game 14 times in the past two seasons. “I’m a huge (Purdue men’s head coach) Matt Painter fan and I heard him quote something the other day — I saw it the other day, but (it’s) like, ‘Too many players value their worth with their jump shot.’ And that’s not what Emily Ryan’s about. She is a kid that wants to win the game.”
People are also reading…
Regardless of points scored or minutes played. That’s why she’s a fixture in the practice gym. Getting better means putting in the work and Ryan’s tireless efforts have paid off.
“It’s just something that I’ve always enjoyed,” said Ryan, who’s averaging 11.3 points, 6.9 assist and 5.3 rebounds per game. “(It’s) somewhere we always have access to, so it’s somewhere you can be, but I just try to be in the gym as much as possible just to put myself on a position to help the team in as many ways as possible.”
It’s hard to count those ways, but scoring seems to be near the bottom of her list. Facilitating sits at the top and Ryan’s 6.9 assists-per-game average ranks 10th nationally.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone like her and I don’t know that we ever will,” Fennelly said. “I mean, she doesn’t care about the stats. The only stat she cares about is turnovers because that’s where she feels she let people down. The other stuff? It’s what do you want me to do and when do you want me to do it? And what am I doing every single play to make the other four people do their job better? It’s a unique thing and we’re just really lucky to have her.”
Ryan’s one of ISU’s so-called “Big Three,” which includes all-time leading scorer Ashley Joens and reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Lexi Donarski. They form the pillar the Cyclones lean heavily on — and each one of them logs an average of 34.3 minutes or more. But Ryan carves out the most court time because she excels in virtually all areas. So she’ll never be locked out, nor dissuaded from entering the gym. That was just a joke, but one that helps illuminate her never-ending earnest aim.
“Whatever the team needs from me and whatever coach asks from me is what I try to give,” Ryan said.