HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- News of WNBA star Brittney Griner's release has spread quickly throughout Houston, where she grew up. Her former high school basketball coach shed tears as she opened up about never having lost hope that one day Griner would come home.
Coach Debbie Jackson spent four years coaching Griner at her alma mater, Nimitz High School in Aldine ISD.
Jackson said she got an early morning phone call telling her that her prayers were answered.
"As soon as Brittney can see other people, I hope I can give her a big hug and let her know how much I love her," Jackson said.
For nine agonizing months, Jackson worried and waited for the Houston native to return home.
"I was asleep. A reporter called me, said, 'I'm sorry to wake you. Good news, Brittney's free.' I was ready to jump up and down on the bed with joy," Jackson said.
Jackson is Griner's former basketball coach. They spent four years together at Nimitz High School.
The coach has been a vocal supporter of Griner after U.S. authorities said she was wrongly detained in Russia back in February.
"I have to give credit to the (Biden) administration for staying with it, try to keep hammering it out. Negotiating. It is difficult. It's difficult when you're working with a corrupt regime that's a bully, a murderer," Jackson said.
President Biden addressed the nation with Griner's wife Cherelle, saying the swap happened in the United Arab Emirates.
"In the oval office, I just got off the phone with Brittney Griner. She's safe, she is on a plane, she's on her way home," Biden said.
Griner was swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Jackson is hopeful she will be able to see her former player again soon.
"Brittney, we love you. So glad you're back. We never forgot you. We knew this would happen. So glad it's now," she said.
ABC13 reached out to Griner's parents, who still live in Houston. They declined to speak on camera.