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Many wondered if the high school version of Crooks would transfer to the collegiate level. Crooks herself was a skeptic at times and explained what it took to get adjusted to the higher level of competition.

“A lot of hard work,” Crooks said. “A lot of hours spent, you know. This is a lifestyle change, when you go from high school to college athletics. It’s a completely different ballgame in terms of the way you train, the way you prepare. So I kind of had to shift my mindset and my body and adjust in a different way so that I could play to the caliber that I’m playing at now.”

Crooks was in the same situation as the other four freshmen for the 2023-24 season because they all wanted to find their place and role on the team. Before her freshman campaign at Iowa State began, Crooks sat down and wrote out her goals for the season.

“I wrote to earn a starting role, to play significant minutes, to be effective from field goals and to be a better teammate. Those were my goals,” Crooks said.

Crooks would earn a spot in the starting five in the fifth game of the season against Syracuse. She made the most of it and scored 23 points in her 28 minutes of court time.

Since then, Crooks has become the permanent starter in the post, plays an average of 25 minutes per game and has a 58% field goal percentage. The goals she set at the beginning of the season have been checked off increasingly with time.

“We’re still working,” Crooks said. “I’m not satisfied by any means, but I’m a lot farther than I think everybody thought I was going to be. Including myself.”

Soon after she became a starter, Crooks became the focal point of the Cyclones with her ability to score and defend inside. Before long, the first Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor went her way.

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