By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nikki Greene has reached the 1,000-point milestone, grabbed over 900 rebounds and is one block shy of 200 in her career. When Greene gets that 200th block, she will be the only Lady Lion in history to have 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 200 blocks.
So, one would think that a player with such numbers that hasn't missed a single game in her entire career would be out for the glitz and the glamour in her final season at Penn State. Not Greene.
Greene, who was unavailable at the team's practice on Wednesday due to a class conflict prior to the team leaving for Indiana, goes about her business quietly and is humble regarding her career milestones. So humbling in fact, when asked about scoring her 1,000th career point against Minnesota on Jan. 24 she was more focused on her team's 64-59 win than personal accomplishment.
"It feels good," said Greene after the game. "I wasn't really aware of it, but it feels good."
That's just who Greene is and that's how she has been since the beginning of her freshman year when she was the only center on the roster. Now, she is the centerpiece of the frontcourt on the Big Ten's current first place team.
The fact that she has yet to miss a game in her career, is one block away from accomplishing something no Lady Lion has ever done and just goes about her business quietly, has impressed her head coach.
"She's had in some ways a very quietly impressive career," said head coach Coquese Washington, "one of the best careers of any post player in Penn State history. When you think about that and all of the great players that have played here and she is the only one to do that. I'm just thrilled she has been able to do that and have this kind of impact on the program."
Greene hasn't gotten to this point without some improvements and those improvements didn't come easy.
She came into the program struggling to shoot from the free throw line and was a quiet presence in the post for Washington. Four years later both of those categories have immensely improved, but not without constant work.
In Greene's freshman year she shot 53.5 percent from the line, which was second last on the team. In year two, she shot just 48.5 percent from the stripe, a team worst.
This season, however, the senior is currently sitting at 67.2 percent and that is just seven percentage points short of the team average. Assistant coach Maren Walseth credits that to Greene's constant work at improving her confidence from the free throw line.
"She has been in the gym a lot," said Walseth. "She is a very linear thinker, a very step by step kind of kid where she says 'I need to get better at this and this is how I'm going to do it.' She does it everyday and sees the results and it keeps her coming back for more."
As for her confidence, it comes straight from her comfort level.
"She's really become more confident in her game," said Walseth. "She knows what her game is and she knows how her game fits in the system. She's becoming more confident in herself."
Washington agreed and said that this confidence has also made Greene a smarter player as she has been able to stay in games late and not get into early foul trouble, which gives her more time to make an impact on the floor, especially on the glass.
Greene has recorded nine or more rebounds in every conference game except for two in 2013 and has been able to stay in games as of late and make an impact on both sides of the ball in the second half.
The ability for her to do so is something Washington said is a key reason why her team has been able to close out conference games.
"She has played more minutes this year and has been able to stay out of significant foul trouble and be on the floor and be more of a factor, especially in the second half," said Washington. "One of the reasons we are able to close out games and do things is because Nikki's on the floor."
Greene has made impressive strides in 2013 as she climbs up the all-time record books at Penn State, even with seven regular season games to go plus postseason play.
When Washington was asked at her weekly press conference on Wednesday if she ever thought Greene's game would elevate to its current point, Washington didn't hesitate with her answer.
"Heck yeah," she laughed. "That's what I recruited her for, to have this kind of impact."