Every year before the season starts head coach Bill Fennelly sits every player down for individual meetings. He goes through what each player needs to do to be successful and explains his expectations. During senior Fallon Ellis’ meeting, what Fennelly said has stuck with her throughout her senior year. He told the 5-11 guard from Missouri City, Texas that she would win a few games for the Cyclones this season.
And he meant it.
However, that was a bold statement for Ellis to take in, considering prior to this season she had averaged just 2.6 points and played around 11 minutes a contest.
Fennelly’s confidence really struck a chord with Ellis. She believed him and it made all the difference in her play this season.
“When he said that to me, I was just like, ‘He believes in me and that I can do certain things. He knows what I am capable of.’ I felt if he sees this in me then I should see it in myself,” Ellis said.
Ellis started believing in herself and big things happened for the senior and for the Cyclones.
Ellis’ improvement on the court has been evident in conference play, where the senior has been lauded by Cyclone Nation on multiple occasions.
The Cyclone faithful first caught a glimpse of her improvement against Kansas State in Hilton Coliseum. With Iowa State struggling against the Wildcats late, the game was tied at 50 with 2:51 remaining. Brynn Williamson passed it to Fallon Ellis along the 3-point line for an open 3-pointer. Ellis didn’t hesitate and knocked down the biggest shot of the game to give Iowa State a 53-50 lead that would eventually seal the deal for Iowa State.
Ellis’ improved play is clearly reflected in her season stat line, as she is averaging 4.8 points, which is nearly double her points from last year. She is also shooting high percentages from the field (.500), 3-point land (.381) and from the charity stripe (.756), and her rebounding is also up from seasons prior (3.7).
She’s tied her career high of 11 points five times this season and in Iowa State’s last game against the Sooners she hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds. After receiving her fifth foul against OU, Ellis went to the bench with a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I didn’t expect to get 14 rebounds in any game but I just did,” Ellis said. “It just came. We needed it. My rebounding hasn’t been as good the past few games. I would look at the stat sheet at half and see zero rebounds and think that that is not acceptable. I can do something. I guess it was just in me that game to just grab every rebound I can.”
Ellis has handled herself against some of the best posts in the Big 12 this season. It’s a true testament of her hard work over the last four seasons and to the Iowa State system.
“I think it is just sending a statement,” she said. “I’m small but I pack a lot of power. I’m able to do just the same things as taller posts can. I feel like I’m a little bit quicker and faster and I’m pretty strong. So it is safe to say I’m small, but I’m capable of doing big things.”
Her play on the court is just as important as what she does off the court. Each year at Iowa State, Ellis set goals for herself. This year, one of her goals was to be able to help her team on and off the court and to reach her potential.
“I want to be that teammate that everyone is like, ‘That is the teammate that helped me a lot and I appreciate her.’ That’s the kind of teammate I always want around,” Ellis said. “That is what I want to leave behind. I guess that was the main goal for me and I’m hoping by the end of the season that my teammates think of me that way. Not only as a good player on the court but a good person off the court.”
She credits much of her character to Fennelly and the Iowa State Way and she also looks forward to being able to use what she learned at Iowa State when she transitions into the career world.
“I think that the best thing about Coach Fennelly is that he does teach us character,” Ellis said. “It’s not just basketball. That’s the kind of thing we need as young adults. Knowing not only what is going on here, but what’s going on in the real world. I think that is going to help me out in the long run. He teaches us character and to always be appreciative of things. Those things have helped me out in my social life as well. People look at me as that person that is appreciative and I’m really grateful for that.”
All things considered, her time at Iowa State will not be forgotten and she isn’t ready just yet to turn the page because there’s still a lot of basketball left. However, Ellis’ big year just goes to show just how far a little confidence can go.