By Sally Adams
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
It would be difficult to determine who loves the other more in the relationship between Cyclone Nation and Chelsea Poppens. The 6'2" junior from Aplington, Iowa has emerged as a key forward for the Iowa State women's basketball team in the past three years, and she doesn't show signs of letting up.
When Poppens committed to Iowa State back in 2009, it was because head coach Bill Fennelly and the rest of Iowa State's coaching staff noticed her exceptional drive as a basketball player. The Cyclone coaches saw great potential right away.
"We loved her competitive spirit and athleticism," Fennelly said. "She was not recruited heavily for basketball, but her toughness and will to win stuck with me from day one."
Poppens decided Iowa State was a good match because she loved the campus and coaching staff, and she found that the distance from Aplington was just right.
"It's a good distance away so that I'm kind of far from home," Poppens said. "But it's close enough that my family and friends can still come and watch."
Those friends and family members have certainly had plenty to see. Poppens was honored the week of March 9, 2010 with the Big 12 Freshman of the Week award and saw action in all 33 contests of her first year. She has continued to be a top rebounder and scorer and, in her sophomore year, she was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team.
Just recently, Poppens was honored once again by earning a Big 12 Player of the Week nod. With each game and practice, Poppens continues to improve as an all around player.
"She is a joy to coach and be around," Fennelly said. "You love kids who come every day and give their best. I would take a team of her and I know we would be real tough to beat."
Poppens has earned her place by pushing herself to improve week after week, and her efforts have not been in vain.
"She has worked hard on her skills since coming to Iowa State," Fennelly said. "Her shooting from the field and free throw line has improved a great deal, and when you add this to her ability to rebound and defend, it makes her a player that has a chance to be an All-Big 12 player someday."
Poppens' hard-working ways have earned her a special place on the team. Freshman teammate Brynn Williamson noticed how influential Poppens is on the court day in and day out.
"Pops is one of those players that you really want to have on your team," Williamson said. "She obviously brings a lot of energy, skill and power to our team, and we wouldn't be this Iowa State basketball team without her."
Williamson noted how Poppens' performances affect the entire team, not just in terms of wins or losses, but also in the Cyclones' moods overall.
"She'll make you laugh when you're having a low day, and when she's having a low day we all try to pick her up because we know it won't be the same unless Pops is totally there," Williamson said. "She brings so much life and energy to the team, and when something's not going right and she's down, the whole team has a bit of a setback."
Poppens' teammates and coaches adore her and it doesn't stop there.
"I think Iowa State fans are lucky to watch someone who truly plays as hard as she can," Fennelly said. "She is one our fans love for sure."
Poppens noted that her favorite part of being a Cyclone and playing basketball at Hilton Coliseum is the crowd.
"The fans are amazing here," Poppens said. "You'll go anywhere, like make a little stop at Kum-And-Go, and someone will call you out and say ‘Nice game!' Everyone's so nice, and it's really like a small community."
The reason for Chelsea Poppens' success at Iowa State is pretty basic: hard work, a strong passion for the program and a deep love of the game. If she continues playing like she has, there's no limit to the impact she'll have on Iowa State women's basketball in the future.