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Bree Horrocks only publicly out player in NCAA women's tourney

Representing LGBT trailblazers is important to the Purdue center.

Bree Horrocks
Bree Horrocks
Purdue Athletics

After playing 29 basketball games this season, Purdue's 6-foot-5 sophomore center Bree Horrocks moves slower than most 20-year-olds.

She suddenly moved smoothly when ESPN announced Monday night that the Boilermakers made it into the NCAA tournament.

"I stood up the fastest I've probably ever stood up for anything in my entire life," Horrocks said in a phone interview. "I stood up, and I clapped, and I cheered. Everyone clapped and cheered. I watched the video that they put on Twitter, and I didn't think I could get up that fast at this point in the season."

Horrocks, who announced publicly she's gay March 30, 2015, will help No. 11-seeded Purdue (20-11) try to beat No. 6-seeded Oklahoma (21-10) at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The game will be played in Lexington, Kentucky, and it is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2.

Purdue missed the NCAA tournament last year, so this will be her first tournament appearance. Horrocks is also the only player or coach in the 2016 NCAA women's tournament to have announced publicly she's gay.

"I know there were others before me that maybe they didn't come out publicly through media, but that they did live openly and currently do live openly and have always been honest and an open book to their teammates and campuses," Horrocks said. "I always keep those people in my mind and remember all the things they've done that have allowed me to feel comfortable with what I have done."

Heading to Lexington excites Horrocks. It's slightly over a four-hour drive from Purdue, and it's also drivable for her parents from suburban Atlanta.

Monday's announcement ended 15 days of anguish for Horrocks and her teammates. Purdue lost in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on March 4, and most online projections had the Boilermakers barely in the tournament.

"There was just so much tension and so many nerves leading up and waiting," Horrocks said. "To see our name, I'm was so excited, and I'm still so excited."

Horrocks has played 29 games this year and started seven of them. She averages 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, making her sixth on the team in scoring and seventh in rebounds.

She said those stats have been aided by feeling more relaxed on the court this season.

"Me being comfortable with who I am off the court has really helped me be comfortable on the court as a basketball player, too," Horrocks said. "I'm able to be myself in all aspects of my life now."

Tulane women get WNIT spot

The Tulane women's basketball team learned Monday night that it will host Alabama on Wednesday in the opening round of the WNIT. The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

The Green Wave include freshman Taylor Emery, who is openly gay.

"We're a perfect team for the WNIT, having five freshmen on our squad," Tulane women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said in a press release. "We want to take this postseason opportunity and see how much better our team can get."

Erik Hall can be reached by email hallerik7@gmail.com, on Twitter @HallErik or on Facebook.