AMES - Iowa State center Madison Baier almost became an Iowa Hawkeye. And then the former South Tama County standout nearly accepted a scholarship offer to play for the Creighton Bluejays.
That was all before Iowa State head women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly came into the picture.
"I was on my way to a St. Louis Cardinals game when I called her to offer her a scholarship," Fennelly recalled. "I couldn't even get the words out of my mouth before I heard screaming on the other end."
Iowa State freshman and former South Tama County standout Madison Baier had foot surgery in April and has spent most of the basketball preseason on an exercise bike. Fennelly said on Oct. 3 at the team’s media day that he was unsure when his 6-foot-4 freshman would be back on the court but is excited to find out what she can do.
Baier's dream had become a reality. She had grown up a Cyclone fan. She has seen many games at Hilton Coliseum. It is now only fitting that she will get a chance to be on the court donning the cardinal and gold.
"I used to get goosebumps when I came here as a fan as a child," Baier said. "I think it is going to be 10 times better as a player. Now, all those fans are going to be cheering for me and my teammates."
Baier's start at Iowa State University hasn't gone the way she would have liked. She had foot surgery back in April and then suffered a setback on Labor Day weekend when she rolled her ankle.
Right now, her workouts involve lots of riding on an exercise bike and watching her teammates go through preseason stuff. Practice started Oct. 4 but Baier was not be able to participate. And there is no telling when she will be able to hit the court with her teammates.
"It's difficult right now," Baier said. "I am the only one on the team who is not practicing. I get to watch practice and be there but it is hard being on the bike all the time."
Even with the injury, Baier hopes to play this season. Fennelly was unsure whether or not the coaching staff would redshirt the 6-foot-4 center or not.
"We have not decided that yet, and honestly, we probably won't know anything until at least November but January may even be more realistic," said Fennelly, who begins his 18th season at Iowa State. "She is excited to be here though, and she has great upside."
Baier was a standout at South Tama County as she was a four-year letter winner, four-time all-conference player and a three-time first team all-conference player.
As a senior, Baier averaged 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game as she guided the Trojans to a 21-3 campaign and a trip to the Iowa State High School Basketball Tournament.
"She understands what it means to play basketball at Iowa State," Fennelly said. "When you can find someone who truly wants to play basketball at your school, those are the kids that end up doing something really special. She was competitive at our elite camp, and we are excited to see what she can do for us."
Because the Cyclones' strength is their front court with returning starters Chelsea Poppens and Hallie Christofferson as well as Anna Prins, Fennelly said he doesn't have to rush Baier into action.
"We want to see what she can do, but there is no pressing need to push her along," Fennelly said.
In her career at South Tama County, she amassed more than 1,000 career points, more than 800 rebounds and more than 300 blocks. In 2012, she was voted first-team all-state by four different publications and was the Times-Republican Player of the Year twice.
So far, Baier is adjusting well to college basketball. She said the speed of the game is faster and that is something she have to get used to. She also noticed a few other things that were different than when she prepped at STC.
"In high school, we never lifted," said Baier, who as a senior was ranked No. 57 on the ESPN Super 60 List. "We lift five days a week here and there is lots more conditioning."
The Cyclones are coming off an 18-13 campaign and a sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. They return four of their top five leading scorers this season.