When thinking of a prototypical rebounder, a guard likely doesn’t come to mind. A 5-foot-8 guard certainly doesn’t stand out.
Standing at that height, Ohio State women’s basketball redshirt junior Linnae Harper has developed a knack for grabbing missed shots.
“She’s 5-foot-8 and plays about 6-foot-2,” said associate head coach Patrick Klein. “It’s just the mentality.”
Harper, out of Whitney M. Young High School in Chicago, transferred from the University of Kentucky last fall and is now trying to bring her skillset to the Buckeyes.
During her sophomore season at Kentucky, Harper led her team with 7.1 rebounds, a figure that was good for seventh overall in the Southeastern Conference. She was the only player in women’s college basketball that season to average seven or more boards while standing at 5-foot-8 or shorter.
“It’s what fires up the inside of me when I’m playing,” Harper said. “I just love it.”
On the court, Harper will bring more than just rebounding. She ranked third with 11.5 points per game during her sophomore year at Kentucky, and she lead the team with 69 steals.
Klein believes she also possesses a killer instinct.
“In big games, she’s going to be the one to step up and make a play for you,” Klein said. “That’s something that you really want on your team.”
Harper has not yet suited up for the Buckeyes, but her teammates are already taking notice of her abilities.
“Linnae is a really hard-nosed guard,” said teammate and redshirt sophomore fellow transfer Sierra Calhoun. “She’s really tough.”
Harper took an unusual route to the transfer process, deciding to make the move at the beginning of the 2015 fall semester. That meant that her first ineligible term came the following spring semester.
“It was very hard because we had just started practicing and the season was right around the corner,” Harper said. “I made sure I had the right people in my corner to help me make the decision, and I think it was the best one I’ve made in a very long time.”
After officially deciding to transfer, her next decision wasn’t nearly as tough.
“I took some visits to some other schools, but there’s nothing like Ohio State,” Harper said.
Harper will have to wait one more semester to join her teammates in game action. She’ll regain eligibility in mid-December, when OSU’s fall semester officially ends.
Even though she won’t start the 2016-17 campaign, Harper won’t be sitting on her hands this semester.
The guard recently brought home the MVP award of USA Basketball’s 3×3 National Tournament. On Aug. 28, her team, including Natalie Romero of Washington, Alexis Jennings of South Carolina and Chatrice White of Florida State, won the tournament.
“It was a great week of basketball,” Harper said. “I played against some great players, some professional players, and it was a great experience overall.”
But that experience is not over yet. Harper will now head to World 3×3 Championships in Guangzhou, China, from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15 to represent Team USA.
“I’m very excited,” Harper said. “I’ve never been to China before, and I’m always looking to go somewhere new and take on new adventures.”
Harper’s participation in the event has made quite the impression on her new coaches.
“Anytime that you can represent your country, play with the best players in the world and play against the best players in the world, that’s going to raise your level,” Klein said. “It’s really made her an even more valuable leader, but it’s also allowed her to get experience playing in big games for big results.”
Once she does begin playing in games for OSU, Harper said she believes that her role will change slightly from her days at Kentucky.
“I think I’m shifting to a leadership role,” Harper said. “Just being more vocal, but also staying aggressive on the court, making sure we’re all involved, giving positive energy and just bringing a lot of personality to the team.”
Harper said she believes that she can also bring some personality to her new club.
“I have this very vivid background,” Harper said. “I think that’s always good when you’re coming around a group of girls who all come from a different background. When we bring that together, I think that we could be really unique.”
Despite the fact that she won’t be in the lineup for Ohio State’s opener on Nov. 11 against Duquesne, Harper has big expectations for this year’s team.
“It’s like we’re a lethal weapon, we’re loaded at every position,” Harper said. “We’re a team you don’t want to face. When my time is coming, I’ll be ready.”
She can begin contributing to those expectations on Dec. 16, when the Buckeyes take on Alabama State at home.