- Mindi Rice
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Nikki Green is branching out of the South.
Next summer, Green will leave her hometown of Diboll, Texas -- with a population just below 6,000 -- for State College, Pa., to join the Penn State women's basketball team.
The 19th-ranked player in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred confirmed that she gave coach Coquese Washington her verbal commitment on Thursday.
"I've never really spent time up there," Green said of the Northeast. "But I'd like to experience something new, and my grandmother and mom really enjoyed it."
Her choice surprised DFW coach Kevin Booze "to a degree."
"Because she's from a small town, I thought she might choose closer to home," he said. "But the whole Penn State staff was very motherly to her and they took a lot of interest in her."
On the way to picking the Nittany Lions, one important aspect was the connection Green established with Washington and the assistant coaches, who just finished their first season at Penn State.
"The coaches were a huge factor," Green said. "I have a good relationship with them, and I connected with the players, too."
The 6-foot-5 post could contribute at Penn State right away, most obviously with her height. Four players taller than six feet will return in 2009, and Green should continue to mature into her position after an impressive summer teaming with Brittney Griner and her DFW teammates.
"Her upside is just out of this world," Booze said. "She's really green and raw. Once she gets with someone who can work with her year-round, she going to blossom really nice."
It is also the first time in the Penn State's recent history that a player will hail from Texas.
Green also took a visit to Rutgers, the only official visit she took other than Penn State. Her visit to Texas was initially cancelled because of Hurricane Ike and she chose not to reschedule. She also chose not to visit the LSU campus.
"She's a good kid," Booze said. "She wants to learn and she works really hard."
Green is the second verbal commitment for Penn State and Washington's 2009 class, joining 6-0 wing Gizelle Studevent from California.
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Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com.