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Hannah Green for ISU women's feature

Illinois State senior forward Hannah Green (25) has played through pain during most of the season in leading the Redbirds with 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

NORMAL — A California girl who grew up north of Los Angeles, Hannah Green has adjusted to Central Illinois winter weather. But it hasn’t been easy.

“Days like today (Thursday) it burns,” she said. “It just hurts your soul a little bit.”

Green also has adjusted to the sore back and sore foot that have threatened her senior season with the Illinois State women’s basketball team. That hasn’t been easy, either.

“I’m OK. Not a big deal,” said Green. “Keep playing.”

Despite the physical challenges, Green has suited up for 19 of 20 games for ISU, which faces Loyola on Friday at Redbird Arena in a 7 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference matchup. The lone Redbird senior averages a team-leading 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Green first injured her back while weightlifting at College of the Canyons near her Castaic, Calif., home.

“I bent over with too much weight,” she said. “They told me it was a bilateral stress fracture (in her lower back).”

While still in need of consistent treatment, Green’s back hasn’t bothered her much lately only because she had nerves burned away from her spine “so my brain can’t signal I’m having that pain. It’s there. I just don’t feel it as much.”

A more pressing issue is foot pain that began after ISU’s Dec. 7 game at Milwaukee.

“I could barely put pressure on it. I took a week to rest it and it helped a lot,” said Green. “It’s limiting what I’m doing (in practice), but we’re making sure it’s not progressing to what it was.”

That means Green participates in team drills for no more than 15 minutes per practice session.

“I feel bad for her,” ISU coach Kristen Gillespie said. “She probably has a stress fracture, but she’s chosen not to have an MRI (exam).”

Green was recruited by former Redbird coach Barb Smith, but is thrilled to be part of what she considers the first season of the ISU program’s resurgence under Gillespie.

“I’m so thankful to Barb Smith for taking a chance on me,” said Green. “It means a lot to me to be the catalyst to what the future holds for this program. I have no doubt in my mind this team is going to be in the NCAA Tournament in the next couple years.”

Gillespie made it a priority to form a quick relationship with Green.

“I knew I only had one year with her,” the ISU coach said. “I wanted to make sure we got the most out of each other. I wanted her to know she would have a lasting impact on what we’re trying to do.

"I’ve really challenged her in a leadership role, and she’s stepped up a tremendous amount.”

Green, who lists her father Greg as her biggest influence, has more than doubled her scoring average from last season by becoming a more versatile player. After just nine 3-point attempts her first season at ISU, Green has launched 82 in 19 games.

“I knew it could be a part of my game. It was a matter of having the confidence to incorporate it,” said Green, who has a two-foot bearded dragon named Dexter in her Normal apartment. “I wanted to be that player, but I hadn’t put in enough work in that area to be that type of player.”

Also effective in the post despite her modest 6-foot stature, Green’s added versatility has been noticed by MVC coaches.

“Green is tremendous,” Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said. “She causes so many different problems because she’s a nightmare matchup.”

Green also possesses an uncanny knack for blocking shots. She averaged 6.5 blocks her final year at College of the Canyons.

Despite playing less than two full seasons at ISU, Green is third on the Redbird career blocked shot list at 115. She currently leads the MVC at 2.1 blocks per game.

“It’s never something I was taught or learned,” she said. “For whatever reason it was given to me, and I’m able to show it on a nightly basis.”

Green would like to continue playing after college and has set her sights on the WNBA.

“If I have to go overseas to play for a couple years, I’m not opposed to that,” said Green. “It’s a matter of putting in the work to make it happen. I would love to see my dreams come to fruition.”

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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