Jaida Green was looking to play college basketball somewhere outside of her home state of Illinois.
And a weekend of snowy weather didn’t scare her away from Central Pennsylvania and Coquese Washington’s program.
Green, a 6-foot-2 sharpshooting wing from Downers Grove North High School, became the first oral commitment to Washington’s recruiting Class of 2016. She will be able to sign her National Letter of Intent in November.
Green is ranked the 11th-best wing player in the recruiting class, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. She selected Penn State over Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Liberty.
Most of those places are quite a ways from Downers Grove, Ill., located a little more that 20 miles outside of Chicago.
“I definitely didn’t want to stay in Illinois,” Green said. “That was a decently large part of my decision is that I wanted to try something new and go somewhere else. I think Pennsylvania was a really good option.”
So she, along with her parents, took an official visit to University Park, nearly 600 miles from home, last weekend. They were in attendance Sunday as the Lady Lions scored a 76-75 upset of Northwestern (of Evanston, Ill.).
“This weekend I got to meet the players and I stayed and hung out with a few of them,” Green said. “I also got to watch a game, which was fun. I just got a rough tour of campus, as well you could do in a car in the snow.
“I came into the visit thinking that I already liked Penn State. The support system is amazing at Penn State and there’s so many things for me to do beyond basketball. The fact that basketball is still really good there and the team was amazing, it all solidified for me that I should go to Penn State.”
Green has a couple of other connections to Penn State.
She has an old friend in Stephanie Zonars, who is in her third year as Coordinator of Community Outreach for the women’s basketball program.
“I’ve known her since I was little,” Green said. “She’s always been a family friend of ours. I wouldn’t say that she had a large part in our decision, but it is definitely fun that she is there and I do have that connection back to home with my family. That was another plus to Penn State.”
And, she knows one of her future teammates.
Teniya Page, one of four members of Penn State’s Class of 2015, plays for the same AAU program (Midwest Elite) as Green.
“She was on the Platinum Team and I was on the top team for my age level,” Green said of Page. “We went against each other in practice and stuff. I’ve never really played with her other than practice drills. I do know that from being on trips and hanging out with her after games that she is a cool kid. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with her.”
Washington will be looking forward to Green’s arrival.
Green has improved her numbers each season at Downers Grove North. She averaged 10.6 points as a freshman, 15.9 as a sophomore and is at 17.4 this season. She currently averages 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per contest.
She’s shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point distance.
That long-range shooting is where Penn State needs big help. The Lady Lions are last in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage (24.4) and 13th among the 14 schools in 3-pointers made per game (2.5).
Green has 49 3-pointers this season, while the entire Penn State team has 52.
“One of my biggest assets is being able to shoot the ball — well past three,” said Green. “I think that’s a big part of my game that will especially help out at and what I’m excited to bring to Penn State. Length, agility and bringing a bunch of havoc on defense is another big part of my game, too.”
She believes those skills will definitely fit into Washington’s system.
“They definitely need a shooter on offense just to stretch the defense,” Green said. “On offense, they go up-and-down and that’s my favorite way to play. They play fast and they don’t have set plays which is another thing that is really good. It really fits the style that I enjoy playing the most.”
Green said the Washington has a plan for her talents.
“They loved that I could shoot, but they also told me, ‘We know you can do everything else,’” Green said. “That was a big thing — they needed a shooter and I kind of fit the mold, but they also are going to push me in other places in my game which I think is a really cool concept. They want me to come there, but they know also know I have more that I can achieve before I get to my maximum potential.”
Green is relieved to have made her decision.
“I just feel so free and excited,” she said. “Now, I just get to play. I’m not trying to impress anyone or play in front of coaches anymore. I have my school and now it’s just about playing to get better and getting ready for college. ... The ultimate goal is to get as good as I can before I get to Penn State.”
The one decision that Green has yet to make regarding Penn State is selecting a major.
“I honestly don’t know,” the well-spoken junior said. “I think I need to get through my senior year at school and really look at what I like and enjoy. Maybe I will go into college not knowing. I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing.”
Green will have plenty of opportunities thanks to a strong academic record.
“I’m in quite a few AP and honors classes,” she said. “My GPA is pretty solid while being in those classes. I would say that I’m a decent student academically.”