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Thrown into fray, Anderson comes up big for Iowa State

POSTED: April 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/The Associated Press

Georgia Tech players, from left, Janie Mitchell, Deja Foster and Tiffany Blackmon smile as they pose for a photo following practice Friday in Des Moines, Iowa. Georgia Tech plays Iowa State today.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — If all this seems a little surreal to Iowa State’s Jocelyn Anderson, it’s easy to see why.

Here, she was a little-known recruit out of Des Moines Area Community College, a 6-foot-4 junior expected to play five, maybe eight minutes a game, and that’s about what she was doing for half the season.

Then, on Jan. 16 in Austin, Texas, her career took a dramatic turn.

"You talk about your life changing forever," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.

When starting center Nicky Wieben tore the ACL in her left knee against Texas, Anderson was thrown into the fire to replace her. She’s responded so well that Iowa State was able to play its way into the NCAA tournament.

The Cyclones (20-12), the No. 7 seed in the Greensboro Regional, play 10th-seeded Georgia Tech (22-9) in a first-round game at Wells Fargo Arena at 11 a.m. today.

"Not just at Iowa State, I think it’s one of the great stories in women’s basketball across the country," Fennelly said. "Her improvement, her commitment, her ability to handle that has been truly one of the most amazing things I’ve seen."

Anderson’s role changed so quickly she didn’t even have time to think about it or get nervous. Wieben’s down? OK, you’re in.

"It’s horrible to see that," Anderson said. "You never want to see anybody get hurt. I guess I was happy for the opportunity to go in and play, but we want her back."

Anderson helped immediately with her rebounding and shot blocking. Her offense took some time, but it’s come around, too. She’s scored in double figures in seven of the last 12 games and reached double figures in rebounding three times in that stretch.

She’s grown so confident that she’ll even call for the ball now when she posts up on the low block. That didn’t happen early in the season.

"I get a little more comfortable every time I go out there and play," Anderson said. "I learned how to maneuver a little better."

She still doesn’t say much. Fennelly loves to tell a story about her first postgame radio interview, when she nodded in response to the questions. Anderson limits her answers to a couple of sentences, but that’s fine, because the Cyclones know they wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t come through.

In the game that secured Iowa State’s NCAA bid, an overtime victory over Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, Anderson’s buzzer-beating putback at the end of regulation produced the overtime. She finished that game with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"Who knows if we would have even been in that game if it hadn’t been for her," guard Heather Ezell said. "You look back, there’s very few games we would have won without her."

Others have noticed Anderson’s performance, too.

"Watching her early in the season, she wasn’t as aggressive," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. "It seems like she was a little more tentative. As the games went on, she’s gotten her confidence. She’s really stepped up and made huge contributions for them."



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