DES MOINES, Iowa — Local 5 Sports Reporter Colin Cahill sat down with Ashley Joens, a basketball player for the Iowa State Cyclones who's currently traveling with the FIBA 3-on-3 World Cup team, to learn about her experiences.
Both questions and responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Where are you at right now?
A: I'm in Antwerp, Belgium. We just got here today.
Q: Did you ever think four years ago, five years ago, when you were graduating high school, that you would be in Europe playing basketball?
A: Definitely not. Right out of high school, I was on the U18 team, and that one was in Mexico City. And then we took our foreign trip with Iowa State right after that. That was the first time I was out of the country, and I never thought I'd go out of the country. And then I was in two different countries in a month and I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy.'
Q: What do you think of Europe? What's it like for you? I know you're working, you're traveling, you're playing basketball. But what have you been able to do so far on this trip?
A: A lot of what we've done so far is just basketball-related. In France, we were eating in the hotel. They had like a little restaurant. So, we're just kind of getting used to their culture and customs and trying to communicate with them. As I was saying, a lot of them weren't able to speak English as well as in other places we've been, so we've just kind of picked up new words in French and tried to fit in with their culture as well. We're kind of learning that way.
Watch the full interview
Q: Are you getting to take it in? To sightsee?
A: We didn't have a lot of time in France, but we'll have a little bit more time here in Belgium. Tomorrow we have an off day. The men play on June 21, and we play on June 22. So we have a day, we'll have a practice where we're going to go to a park because they don't have time at the gym because the men's teams are going to be practicing. So we'll go there. And then we'll have a little bit of free time since we don't have any games and practice, really, so I'll wander around and see what it's like out there.
Q: Have you ever played 3-on-3 basketball before this?
A: Not before. The summer after my freshman year, USA and Red Bull had a tournament, which is what we did this year in Massachusetts, but my freshman year was in Vegas. And it was the same rules; that's kind of how they pick their teams for this. So that was the first time I played it. It definitely takes a little bit to get used to the faster pace of the game, where to go on offense and transitioning on defense. There's no time to think. You just have to do it right away. Because it is a quick game: you play 10 minutes, and the first to 21 points wins. Every game I'm picking up something new that, 'Oh, I didn't realize before that it was going to be so physical,' or 'You have to be so quick on the transitioning from offense to defense, from defense to offense, just to get like easy-open shots or get a stop on defense.' So it definitely takes some getting used to, but I think, right now, we're doing pretty good. And we just got to keep improving each day.
Q: Does it take you back to pickup basketball days?
A: When we're playing, it's more transition offense, like we can't run set plays every time. But if we check the ball up at the beginning of the game or there's a foul or a ball goes out of bounds, you'll check it up, you can run a set play. Most of it is just playing off of each other. So a lot of what we did before we even came over to France was just getting used to playing with each other, going through different action sets where you're just playing out of it, not necessarily a play. But there's different things you can do like a pick and roll, hand dribble handoffs, different things like that. You're just playing basketball; you're not really thinking at all.
Q: How has the team relationship been built over the last month?
A: I played with Haley Van Lith on the U19 team, and we were actually roommates in Thailand, so I got to know her a little bit there. Even in these past few weeks that I've been with her, I've gotten to know her a little better, and build those relationships a little more. I hadn't known Cierra Burdick; she's been playing in the WNBA. She's played overseas. So I'm just getting to know her and hear her experiences because she's played a lot of 3-on-3. Listening to her and learning from her as well as Coach Lawson has been a huge help. Then, Lauren Cox, I played against her. She went to Baylor, so I played against her for two years. So it's just a different perspective. This is actually her first time playing 3-on-3 in a big tournament like this, too, so we're kind of on the same page. We're learning together. It's been a lot of fun just building these relationships and getting to know these girls a little bit more.
Q: How many different countries have you played basketball in?
A: I've only traveled for basketball. I don't think I've been on vacation since I was like 10. So I call these vacations even though they're like business trips, essentially. It's free travel for me, so I'm like 'It's fun.' You get to represent your country. Who wouldn't want to do that? It's a huge honor obviously to wear USA on your chest and put on the jersey. I played on the U18 team in Mexico City, Iowa State went to Costa Rica and the U19 team went to Japan for a short time and then Thailand. Then France and now Belgium.
Q: What's been your favorite so far?
A: Europe because I like the food they have here. I think it's pretty good. In Thailand, it was a lot of rice, and I'm not a huge fan of rice. So by the first week, I was like 'I need something else to eat besides rice.' I think I was eating dumplings and rice for like a month straight and I was like 'I just need something else' because it was rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But the sightseeing there was cool.
Q: How do you keep in touch with your family? Is it just video calls?
A: It's hard with the time change. We're seven hours ahead, so it's usually like the end of our night is your morning. So a lot of times, they're not even up, but I can text them. Usually, I'll text at night here, and they'll get it when they wake up. It's like a long chain of messages that kind of go back and forth throughout multiple days.
Q: Is there anything that can translate from 3-on-3 to how you play in college?
A: I think 3-on-3 is more transferrable to 5-on-5 because it's faster pace game. It's a little more physical when you play internationally. I'm just playing and not really thinking as much and translating that over to 5-on-5. I think it's been a good transition, and it will definitely help me this next upcoming season.
Q: What do you like more?
A: I think I like 5-on-5 still, but 3-on-3 is fun to play, especially in the offseason so you're still playing and practicing. I definitely like 3-on-3 but I wouldn't want to play just 3-on-3.
Q: What was it like getting to play for team USA, getting to put on that jersey?
A: It's a great honor. With the 5-on-5 teams, only 12 people make the team. So you're considered one of the best in that class. It means a lot to even just wear USA on your jersey. Every time you put on the uniform, you're representing your country, yourself, your family and everyone. I don't know how to describe it; it's just an amazing honor.
Q: Do you ever think about all the incredible women that have also put on a jersey like that?
A: It's crazy here because the in the 2020 Olympics, the US won the 3-on-3, they won the gold medal. Here, they announced us and they're like 'The Olympic champions,' and I'm like 'I wasn't even on the Olympic team!' It's crazy to think about how I'm playing for the USA, an they've won an Olympic gold medal. Now, I'm here in this position and have the chance to win a gold medal and, potentially, make that Olympic team.
Q: What's the schedule like? Is this the last stop?
A: This is the last stop. This is the World Cup and we'll start playing June 22 and 24. Those are pool play games, and after that it goes into bracket play.
Q: Will you get a break before you come back to Ames and start school?
A: I'll start student teaching in July, so as soon as I get back I'll start. So, not a break. It's okay, though, I would prefer to be busy. If I have downtime, I'm like 'Oh, what do I do? Just go to the gym again!'