CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — When Genesis Bryant entered the transfer portal in the spring, she already had a relationship with Shauna Green. The Illinois coach recruited the Georgia native out of high school when Green was at Dayton, but Bryant chose North Carolina State. After two years with the Wolfpack, Bryant was ready for a new start at the same time Green was taking over the Illini.

“She knew me from high school and she just kind of betted on that,” Bryant said about Green. “And I’m so glad she betted on me.”

“Those are the types of players that I love,” Green said about Bryant. “I feel like that’s kind of what I want our program to be about, is just hard workers, disciplined kids, and she wanted to come here to create something and to leave her own legacy and to leave a legacy of what we’ve built. Just a special person, special player.”

And Bryant is a player who has seen what it takes to win. At NC State, the 5-foot-6 guard went to the Elite 8 and Sweet 16. While she was part of a winning team, Bryant only averaged seven minutes a game. That’s all changed since arriving in Champaign, with Bryant now a go-to player for the Orange and Blue playing the second most minutes while shooting 46% from the field and 43% from three.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and that Coach Green just trusted me and not knowing what I did for the past two years because I really didn’t see the floor,” Bryant said. “But I knew I had a good coach, a good support system so I was ready for that challenge.”

And Green has brought out the best of Bryant. After only scoring in double-figures once at NC State, Bryant has done it 19 times this season, including a triple-double against Florida Atlantic in December.

“Just seeing that growth and knowing how hard she’s worked at it you’re happy for her,” Green said. “You’re happy for someone who just commits to be the best she can possibly be and that was kind of, you know, getting the fruits of her labor.”

And the work continues to Bryant, who is looking to lead the Illini back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. At 18-6 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play, Illinois is currently projected as a No. 9 seed in the latest ESPN bracketology.