Bridget Carleton’s official debut as a Cyclone couldn’t have gone much better if she scripted it herself. The freshman from Chatham, Ontario, Canada lit up Hilton Coliseum with a game-high 28-points off 10-of-17 shooting. She also grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double.
Iowa State would go on to rout Hampton, 95-59, but the spotlight belonged to Carleton, who broke Bryanna Fernstrom’s record (25) for most points by a freshman in a career debut. Her performance led to her winning the first Big 12 Freshman of the Week award of the season, making her just the eighth different ISU freshman in the last five seasons to earn the honor.
“I think it’s just cool to get the first game [out of the way], but it’s just our starting point and I want to be so much better than this,” Carleton said. “I know that I can be better so I just want to get there.”
Carleton not only put on a show in front of the Hilton crowd, but in front of her family, who drove down from Canada for her first collegiate game. In total, she had seven close family members and friends in attendance and they couldn’t have been more proud of the 6-1 freshman.
“It was awesome that they were there, I think for my first collegiate game it was really special to me and it made me feel more comfortable that I had family here watching and not just a crowd full of strangers,” Carleton said.
Head coach Bill Fennelly can easily see Carleton’s potential.
“Bridget is a worker,” Fennelly said after the season opener against Hampton. “Bridget has long-term goals. Bridget wants to play on the Canadian Olympic team. Beating Hampton tonight or whatever happens is a part of her life, but she has goals down the road that most young people don’t have. I think she’s the kind of kid that gets it. She’s very humble. Like I said, she has an amazing family and she was taught that you have to show up.”
Carleton is just one member of Iowa State’s highly touted freshman class that included two top-45 prospects and Carleton, who was the No. 1 recruit in Canada’s 2015 class. The three commitments gave ISU the 15th-ranked recruiting class in the country, making it the best class in Fennelly’s tenure.
Carleton has high hopes for not just her career at Iowa State, but her future after she is finished competing for the Cyclones. She competed on Canada’s U16, U17, U18 and U19 squads and hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics for Canada. Though her goals seem lofty, they are very realistic.
Carleton spent this summer as a captain for the U19 Women’s National team and she has appeared in 27 international games, averaging 12.3 points. Her goal is to become a member of the national team in 2017. To do that, she knows she has a lot of work to do.
“Canada Basketball has contacted me about things that I need to work on, and they have also been in contact with Coach Fennelly, and that is another big reason why I wanted to come here because they are willing to help me,” Carleton said. “So I’m just working hard to improve what Canada Basketball and what Iowa State wants me to improve on, which are about the same things, so it is really helpful.”
For Carleton, Iowa State’s willingness to work with Canada Basketball on her development was one of the reasons she decided to commit to the Cyclones.
Carleton’s commitment to the Cyclones came with a little bit of luck as associate head coach Jodi Steyer was contacted by a recruiting service in Canada about her. After watching game film, Steyer and Fennelly reached out to her parents and sent over information about Iowa State.
She was instantly interested after watching the Cyclones’ recruiting video.
“I watched that 20-minute video of women’s basketball and I got interested,” Carleton said. “I felt like coach Steyer was really engaged with me, she came and watched my high school game, and my high school basketball was really not that good. It was special when they came down to watch practice, and ever since then, I became really connected to the coaches, and then I came down and visited and I loved it and I wanted to commit.”
Carleton went on several other college visits, but none held up against Iowa State.
“Once I came and visited, the fans blew me away when I came here,” she said. “I have never played in front of nearly as many people, and the team was all really welcoming and exciting and I kind of fit in really well with them so that was a huge part.”
There’s no telling what the future holds for Carleton, whether it’s a spot on Canada’s women’s national team, a trip to the Olympics or even a spot or two in the ISU record books. However, one thing is certain: she is glad she chose Iowa State, and so is Cyclone Nation.