In the end, Chatrice White said, it just felt like home.
That's what the 6-foot-3 Shelby-Rising City post player told coaches at Illinois last week.
Then she dropped her bombshell.
“That's why I'm deciding to commit here,” White told the coaches.
“They jumped up and gave me a big hug and they cheered. It was quite a reaction.”
White visited Champaign in September and said her second visit confirmed what she'd been thinking since then: It was the right place.
The junior shared the news with her hometown on Tuesday night at the school's activities banquet, ending three years of stress and closing the lid on boxes of recruiting letters.
Sixty to 70 programs were interested in White, who said it came down to 20 schools that she considered and visited.
“There were a lot of miles on the car,” White said. “There were a lot of tears shed. It was a great experience. I would do it again, just meeting all the people I met along the way.”
White had narrowed it down to four teams, and she had to inform the Purdue, Oklahoma State and Nebraska coaches that she had made her choice on Monday night.
Husker coach Connie Yori and the others were gracious when they got the news.
“She told me she was really disappointed I wasn't going to Nebraska, but she was great about it,” White said of Yori. “She said she wanted the chance to coach me, but she was really excited I made my decision.”
Shelby-Rising City coach Travis Weber said White did a good job of figuring out where she wanted to go. He and Dan Lesoing, her club coach with the Cornhusker Shooting Stars, worked together to help her through the process, but it was all White's decision.
“I had thought all along she wasn't going to Nebraska,” Weber said. “She wanted to go out there and make her own mark.”
She found the place to do so in Champaign, where Matt Bollant led the Illini to a 19-14 and 9-7 Big Ten record and the WNIT quarterfinals in his first year. White had liked his coaching style at Green Bay but didn't consider playing for him because he wasn't at a BCS school.
Illinois moved up from ninth to a fifth-place tie this season in the Big Ten standings. Bollant is bringing in six freshmen and a Georgia Tech transfer for next season. Former Council Bluffs Lewis Central standout Kylee Simmons is transferring from Missouri. Simmons and Minden's Brooke Kissinger — another Shooting Stars teammate — will start at Illinois the same time as White.
“They are doing big things with the program. The support staff, everything is great,” White said. “Being in the Big Ten, that's great. I'll get to come back and play at Nebraska and places my parents can watch me play.”
Bollant told White she would continue to play the post but they would work on making her more versatile and more of an all-around player.
White averaged 23.4 points and 14.2 rebounds last fall for 21-3 Shelby-Rising City and was named to the All-Nebraska third team as well as Class C-2 all-state. She had 124 blocks, 76 steals, 49 assists and shot 82.2 percent from the line.
“My dream is to be the Big Ten freshman of the year and maybe after college play professionally or overseas,” White said. “I told the coaches that and they said they would do everything in their power to get me there.”
White walked the audience Tuesday night through her recruiting experiences with parents Bob and Nitha and then told them she was going to sign with Illinois. There was no dramatic presentation of an Illini hat or shirt.
She's saving that was for Wednesday.
“I have some shorts, a shirt and a sweatshirt picked out. That's what I'm going to wear to school,” she said. “All Illinois.”
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