Teniya Page could have stayed in the Midwest in her home state and played women’s basketball in the Big Ten.
But, the lure of playing for a coach more than 550 miles away had a stronger pull.
Page, a 5-foot-7 point guard from Chicago’s Marion Catholic High School, orally committed recently to play for Penn State coach Coquese Washington.
Page becomes the third member of the 2015 recruiting class, joining 5-7 point guard Amari Carter (St. John’s High School, Washington D.C.) and 6-3 post player Jaylen Williams (Archbishop Williams, Braintree, Mass.).
Page, currently rated the No. 21 player in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz, was courted by several big-time programs, but narrowed her choices to Michigan State, Illinois, Baylor and Penn State.
In the end, her decision came down to Penn State and Illinois, but the Lady Lions won out thanks to their coach.
“In particular, it was my relationship with Coach Washington,” said Page. “It just kind of felt right compared to Illinois. That pretty much was it. I was back-and-forth. I realized my relationship with Coach Washington was pretty decent and that’s where I wanted to be.”
Page took an official visit during the weekend of the Nittany Lions’ home football opener on Sept. 6. She had also taken an unofficial trip last March.
“Just to see the campus with a lot of the students on it and the atmosphere of game day for a football game, I liked it,” she said.
Page headed home and after a tough week made her choice.
“I talked to my parents about it,” Page said. “The whole week I was back-and-forth between Penn State and Illinois. But at the end of the week, I came to the conclusion.”
Page has seen the Lady Lions in person and on television and has a favorite former Lady Lion, who is now in the WNBA.
“I’m a big fan of Alex Bentley,” Page said. “Why not play for the coach who coaches her?”
The Lady Lions get a point guard who led Marion Catholic to a 28-5 record and a third-place finish in the Illinois Class 4A playoffs. The Spartans lost to eventual champion Whitney Young in the semifinals.
“It’s really competitive, depending on the type of schedule you play and whether or not you go out of town,” Page said of Chicago basketball. “Once you make it down state, it becomes 10 times more competitive than the regular season.”
Carter averaged 14.4 points, 4.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game as a junior. She was a first-team All-State Selection by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and a second-team pick by the Associated Press.
Her speed and a wicked crossover dribble are among her strengths.
“I like to attack the basket in transition,” said Page when asked to describe her game. “I really like to pass the ball and I think I’m a really good passer. My jump shot is what I rely on most of the time. I’ve gotten a lot better at my on-ball defense.”
She also has more things she wants to work on.
“I want to be more vocal with my teammates and be more consistent,” she said.
She won’t be a stranger to one of her classmates. Both she and Carter have tried out for a couple of USA Basketball teams over the past summers.
“We’re pretty good friends,” Page said. “We met for the first time at U-16 tryouts and we got to know each other. Last year for U-17, we got a lot closer.”
Page said she had no reservations about coming to a team that already had a commitment from another point guard.
“It wasn’t a big thing to me,” she said.
Neither are the player rankings. Before she suffered a knee injury this summer, Carter was ranked as the No. 9 player in the country by ESPN. Now, she’s at No. 31 overall.
“Those things don’t matter to me because they are opinion-based,” Page said. “I didn’t start playing basketball for rankings. I played it because I liked it and I’m going to keep playing because I like it. ... I know I’m a top player in the country and I don’t think a ranking can tell me that or distinguish where I fall between people at my position or the shooting guard position. ... I really don’t look at it at all.”
The numbers Page are more interested in will be the ones she studies when she becomes a business major at Penn State.
“It was something my dad suggested to me, plus I’m good at math,” she said of her choice of a major.
After a busy summer of playing AAU basketball and tryouts, Page is glad to have the toughest choice behind her.
“It’s a relief,” she said of picking a college. “I can focus on other things and actually enjoy my senior year.”