LINCOLN — On the phone, the newest 2014 commit for the Nebraska women's basketball team speaks softly and humbly about her game.
But Concord (Calif.) Carondelet star Natalie Romeo won't mind the fishbowl that can be Husker athletics in Lincoln. The more fans who pack into new Pinnacle Bank Arena, the better. It's a main reason one of the country's top point guards picked the Huskers.
“The city kind of revolves around the college, and Nebraska gets a lot of fan support,” said the 5-foot-7 Romeo, the No. 27 player in the country according to the Full Court Fresh 50 and No. 67 player in the nation according to Prospects Nation. “That's pretty important to me. My high school team doesn't get a lot of fans.”
That's because Carondelet's companion all-male school, De La Salle, is one of the nation's powers in a variety of high school sports. The Husker women averaged 5,243 fans per home game in their last season at the Devaney Center and have sold more season tickets for the upcoming season than ever before.
Said Romeo's Cal Stars AAU coach, Kelly Sopak: “She wants to win and she wants to play in front of a lot of people. Nebraska offered both of those things.”
So NU landed Romeo — who last year averaged 21.4 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 steals per game — over Louisville, Utah and Oregon State, among other offers. Bay Area schools California and Stanford have yet to offer, and Romeo said it wouldn't matter if they did. Romeo said an unofficial visit to Nebraska earlier this summer — coupled with Husker head coach Connie Yori personally handling a good portion of the recruiting — won her over.
What will Nebraska get for its efforts? A seasoned player who's started for Cal Stars' high school team since she was in eighth grade.
“She's phenomenal in transition,” Sopak said. “She plays at an extremely fast pace and plays better in transition than any player I've coached. She really pushes the ball.” Sopak said his team is usually the highest-scoring team in any tournament. That's because of Romeo.
Romeo said her top skills are court vision, passing and beating defenders down the floor. Yori's system prefers a quicker pace, provided there are enough guards on hand to run it. By the time Romeo arrives, Nebraska will still have all its guards on the team, and projected starting point guard Rachel Theriot will be a junior. Theriot showed last year she could play a two-guard spot as WNBA first-round draftee Lindsey Moore ran the team.
Romeo's heard of Moore, and even heard from a few people that her game is like Moore's. She just hasn't seen Moore or NU in action quite yet.
“I don't watch a lot of TV,” she said. “I guess I don't have any time.” She's had a bit more after dislocating her left kneecap and straining her MCL a few weeks ago at a tournament in Portland, Ore. Romeo said she'll be able to walk without the brace soon and shouldn't miss any of her high school season.
An official visit awaits Sept. 14, when she'll take in Nebraska's football team playing UCLA and get another full tour of the new basketball arena.
“It's so cool,” Romeo said.
Video: Natalie Romeo's junior year highlights