Freshman Claire Ricketts’ path to Iowa State wasn’t that of a typical Division I basketball recruit. Ricketts started out as a swimmer and didn’t start playing organized basketball until her freshman year of high school. With a lot of time to make up, she had to work hard to play catch up. Many NCAA prospects begin playing basketball in middle school or earlier, but in middle school Ricketts found herself in a pool and not in a gym.
Swimming was her sport of choice at a young age. It wasn’t until around eighth grade that her time in the pool appeared to have run its course and she found herself interested in playing high school basketball her freshman year at John Paul II. So the Parker, Texas native put away her swim cap and goggles and traded them in for a jersey and basketball shoes to take up the family sport of basketball.
Growing up, pick-up basketball games were common for the Ricketts family. Her two brothers looked to pursue college basketball careers and her sister also played basketball.
However, her familiarity with basketball wasn’t enough to earn her a starting job in high school. Though she didn’t start she said she was recruited for varsity because of her height. Her coaches started developing her into an athletic post player. She didn’t play much her freshman year and she described herself more as clumsy on the court than anything else.
“I always fell to the ground,” Ricketts said. “Everybody laughed at me. If you saw me out there, I was either on the ground or on the bench. I was really awkward and clumsy. I never thought I was going to be getting letters from colleges or get the opportunity to play at a D I school.”
Despite having a difficult adjustment early on in her freshman year, she kept working hard throughout the season. By the end of her freshman year, the Cardinals of John Paul II were in the Final Four and Ricketts’ coach pulled her aside and told her she was going to start in the game.
“It was an unreal experience because we were in the state championship,” Ricketts said.
Ricketts improvement was a true testament to the phrase, “Hard work pays off.”
Even though the Cardinals didn’t win it all that year, Ricketts learned a valuable lesson about working hard and pushing yourself.
After playing on the AAU circuit later that same year, she started receiving interest from Division I schools. It was then that she realized that the clumsy freshman was gone.
She attributes much of her quick improvement to the fact that she isn’t afraid of being coached.
“I’m not a kid that doesn’t like to be coached,” Ricketts said. “I’m not a kid that everything’s happy. I want you to tell it to me straight.”
Her tell-it-like-it-is mentality is part of the reason Ricketts was attracted to Iowa State and being coached by Bill Fennelly. She knew she would be coached hard and she responded to that.
Flash forward to three years later and Ricketts is a member of the Iowa State women’s basketball program and one of several players vying for the final spot in the Iowa State starting lineup.
“You can’t teach hard work,” Ricketts said. “You have to have it in you. That’s just me. You can make a difference on the court without having stats.”
Ricketts will look to make a difference for ISU on the court when the Cyclones open the 2014-15 season on Nov. 16 against USC Upstate.