Former Iowa State star Bridget Carleton selected for Canada basketball Olympic team

Tommy Birch
Des Moines Register

When Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly and his staff recruited Bridget Carleton, they told her about the women’s basketball fanbase at Iowa State, the Cyclones’ track record of success and their history of player development.

Then Fennelly tried to sell one more thing that was specifically directed at Carleton. Fennelly, knowing that Carleton’s dream was to one day play for Canada in the Olympics, told her they could help make that become a reality.  

“I really think that was a huge, huge piece of it,” Fennelly said. “I think that just really checked off all the boxes.”

Those pitches helped convince Carleton to come to Iowa State. And Fennelly followed through on that promise to help her try to reach the Olympics. Carleton, a former star for the Cyclones, was officially named to Canada’s Senior Women’s National Team Olympic roster Tuesday night.

Former Iowa State star Bridget Carleton will play for Canada in the Olympics.

The news was more of a formality for Carleton, a native of Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Carleton, who has competed for Team Canada since 2013, was a member of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament team that went 3-0 and earned Canada its third-straight Olympic appearance. She averaged 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists while averaging 25.3 minutes per game.

Canada will begin its Olympic run on July 26 when it takes on Serbia in the group stage.

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Her selection to Canada’s Olympic roster marks her first selection to the Olympic team. It’s been a long-time dream of Carleton’s, even before she got to Iowa State.

“When we recruited her, we told her that ‘We want you to be a great player here but we’re going to do everything we can' because that was her dream obviously,” Fennelly said.

Carleton, a four-year starter for the Cyclones from 2015-2019, was one of the best players in school history. She finished her career with 2,142 points, 211 steals, 124 blocked shots and 255 3-pointers. After college, Carleton was selected in the second round of the WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun. She now plays for the Minnesota Lynx.

Fennelly believes that time in Ames helped play a big role in her journey to the Olympics. The Cyclones provided instant playing time for Carleton, something Canada Basketball wanted for her early in her college career. They also worked around her schedule. Carleton missed significant time during her college summers to train and play for Canada. Fennelly said his staff even stayed in close contact with Canada’s coaching staff to make sure they were on the same page for workouts.

“It was a lot of coordination of everyone’s part,” Fennelly said. “Team Canada was great to work with. But I think we did our part and Bridget was really, really good at keeping us aware of, ‘Hey, this is coming.””

Fennelly said that after Carleton’s sophomore year at Iowa State, he realized the Tokyo Olympics may be a possibility for Carleton. It was and now it’s a reality.

“We loved doing it,” Fennelly said.

Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at tbirch@dmreg.com or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.