Waco (FOX 44) — Baylor University leadership responded Thursday morning to reports that former Baylor Bear Brittney Griner was released from Russian captivity.

Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone and Vice President and Director of Athletics Mack B. Rhoades, IV, said in a joint statement that, “Brittney Griner is a member of our Baylor Family, and we are extremely grateful that she is on her way back home to the United States. We praise God this day has finally come.”

They went on to say that their hearts go out to Brittney and her family as they have endured months of separation.

Dr. Livingstone and AD Rhoades also commented on Paul Whelan, “While we celebrate Brittney’s release, our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to fellow American Paul Whelan and his family, as well as all Americans unjustly imprisoned overseas – that they will be freed and can return home safely and promptly.”

Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, American officials said. The swap, at a time of heightened tensions over Ukraine, achieved a top goal for President Joe Biden.

Russian and U.S. officials had conveyed cautious optimism in recent weeks after months of strained negotiations, with Biden saying in November that he was hopeful that Russia would engage in a deal now that the midterm elections were completed. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before year’s end.