Iowa State freshman sensation Audi Crooks has Stanford's attention after 40-point NCAA debut

Updated Mar. 23, 2024 7:52 p.m. ET

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — The Des Moines Police figure they have little chance of stopping Audi Crooks.

That's the good-natured message they're sending anyway.

Crooks is catching attention everywhere after a dominant 40-point debut in the NCAA Tournament, and the police department back home is having a little fun with Iowa State's NCAA Tournament success so far fueled by the fabulous freshman center.

“Some Crooks nobody can stop.”


That's what a congratulatory social media post to the team and Crooks read on the police feed via X, formerly Twitter, while featuring a photo of a smiling Crooks in her No. 55 jersey and holding a basketball.

The imposing, 6-foot-3 Crooks and Iowa State play in Ames, some 35 miles away from the state capital of Des Moines. Sure, Crooks hardly owns the stardom of Iowa's Caitlin Clark but she has quickly made a name for herself on the March stage.

“I thought it was pretty funny. Cool that the police department is watching and is noticing,” said the deceptively speedy Crooks. “That does draw a lot of attention to our program and to women's basketball, so I think it's just a positive thing overall.”

With an ever-present smile and poise well beyond her 18 years, Crooks converted 18 of 20 shots to lead the Cyclones’ 20-point comeback as No. 7-seed Iowa State (21-11) beat 10th-seeded Maryland 93-86 on Friday night.

That sets up a second-round date Sunday night with No. 2 seed Stanford (29-5) on the Cardinal’s home court.

"I don't think there's any question that Audi has the opportunity and platform to impact our sport," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said Saturday.

Crooks joined Bill Walton as the only players in NCAA Tournament history to score 40 points shooting at least 90% after Walton accomplished the feat for UCLA in the 1973 NCAA championship game, according to OptaSTATS.

“Last night obviously that was interesting, so not every game's going to be like that,” Crooks said a day later. “I'm just going to take what continues.”

Stanford's players were able to see some of Crooks' brilliance live in the stands before heading to the locker room to prepare for the late game.

“She’s phenomenal, very efficient, and I think she went 18 for 20 last night,” guard Hannah Jump said. “So I think just trying to limit her catches, be aggressive, make sure we box her out and don’t let her get any second-chance opportunities.”

Hall of Fame Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer is thrilled with the fanfare surrounding Crooks' breakout.

And VanDerveer offered a shoutout of appreciation to the police post — “I thought that was really cute that she's OK to be a Crook.”

The Des Moines police public information officer is Paul Parizek, a friend of Fennelly and the program.

In an email to The Associated Press, Parizek pointed to Clark, Crooks and Drake's Katie Dinnebier as “Iowa homegrown talent making a mark on the national stage.”

“Our perspective is that when women succeed, we all succeed. Anything we can do to help amplify the accomplishments of women in our state is a win for everyone,” Parizek wrote. "Our agency has a pretty good social media following in central Iowa, so we want to do whatever we can to help highlight the outstanding accomplishments of women role models.

“Those that discourage law enforcement organizations, across our nation, from using social media platforms to acknowledge greatness in our communities, promote the success of others, and boost our outreach to the diverse communities we serve seems counterproductive to our collective success. It’s Women’s History Month, and a woman’s place is anywhere she dreams it to be, no matter what uniform she’s wearing!”

VanDerveer knows that kind of recognition could reach a new audience that could bring some new eyes to women’s basketball and fans who might not have tuned in Sunday otherwise.

“I think it's fabulous,” said VanDerveer, who earlier this season passed former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to become the winningest coach in men's or women's basketball. “... We need the regular folks, not just the basketball afficionados that are all into basketball, but everyone saying, ‘Hey, let’s check out the score., let's watch.' It’s great, I think it’s really exciting that something like that is getting that kind of attention.”

Crooks realizes that duplicating her first-round performance isn't a realistic expectation — especially given Stanford's Cameron Brink is the nation's top shot blocker and swatted six shots in a first-round win against Norfolk State.

Brink has 115 blocks this season and her frontcourt teammate Kiki Iriafen is equally capable of regularly disrupting shots.

“Kind of reminds me growing up playing against my sister who was way taller than me and swatted my shot all over the place,” Iowa State's Addy Brown said of older sister Kennedy, a star at Duke. “They’re really good shot blockers inside, especially Cameron. Just got to be smart and ready for that, know she’s going to come over. Can’t be afraid of that.”

VanDerveer will rely on several players to defend Crooks, calling her a “fabulous talent.

“I'm glad I don't have to guard her," the coach said. "We have players on our team that are going to work really hard against her."


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