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Women’s basketball transfers ready to fill big roles

OSU women's basketball players huddle before a game against Rutgers on Jan. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File Photo

OSU women’s basketball players huddle before a game against Rutgers on Jan. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File Photo

It’s not that often a college basketball program lands a transfer that can immediately step into an important role upon eligibility. Grabbing three of those players at once is especially rare, but it’s a situation the Ohio State women’s basketball team is fortunate to be in.

Redshirt junior forward Stephanie Mavunga, redshirt sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun and redshirt junior guard Linnae Harper will make their debuts with the Buckeyes this season after transferring from other colleges.

“They are all going to have big roles in this program right away,” said associate head coach Patrick Klein.

Mavunga played two seasons at the University of North Carolina before deciding to transfer at the end of her sophomore year, and Sierra Calhoun, who previously suited up for Duke University, will be available from the outset of the 2016-17 campaign.

Per NCAA rules, both players had to sit out for the entirety of the 2015-16 season.

“We’re really about to play, we’re free,” Mavunga said. “We feel like we’ve been locked up this whole time. It’s just time to unleash.”

Harper waited until the fall of 2015 to make her decision, making the following semester her first official ineligible term. The redshirt junior is required to sit out one more semester and will be ready to return to the floor in mid-December after transferring the from Kentucky Wildcats.

“It’s going to give me more time to work on my game,” Harper said. “I’ll be a leader to my teammates on the sidelines, still being there supporting them.”

All three players were McDonald’s All-Americans in high school and were recruited by Ohio State at the time, Klein said.

Having been with the program long enough to be involved with both the high school and transfer recruitments of all three players, Klein said he believes the trio has only grown since the Buckeyes initially missed out on them.

“They’ve added more experiences through their high school and college, but also through their time with USA basketball,” Klein said. “That brings such a great backbone to the program.”

Through these experiences, each transfer has acquired a different set of skills that will now be on display at OSU. Mavunga played big underneath the basket in her two seasons in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The 6-foot-3 forward from Brownsburg, Indiana, averaged more than eight rebounds a game and blocked 90 shots each season.

Mavunga’s 143 offensive rebounds ranked second in the ACC during her sophomore year.

“She is one of the hardest, most consistent offensive rebounders,” Klein said. “If you take a possession off, she is going to make you pay.”

Calhoun, who hails from Brooklyn, carries a different repertoire.

“Sierra is just one of the most pure shooters in the game,” Klein said. “She’s really going to make teams pay from the three-point line.”

Calhoun averaged 10.1 points per game in her freshman year at Duke, but she’s ready to contribute more than just points.

“I’ll do anything on the court to help my team win,” Calhoun said.

Describing her as a jack-of-all trades, Klein says Harper’s skill set will make an impact on the court.

Standing at just 5-foot-8, the Chicago native led Kentucky with 7.1 rebounds per game during her sophomore season.

“It’s just a part of the game that gets me fired up and competitive,” Harper said. “Even when I was in high school, I just loved rebounding.”

Neither Mavunga, Calhoun nor Harper have registered an official game with the Buckeyes yet, but they all maintain high hopes for this year’s group.

“We’re going to have a special team,” Harper said. “When the time comes for the season, the Buckeyes will be ready.”

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