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What Laura Harper Brings to the Fever

By Wheat Hotchkiss

This week,  Fever President and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf announced that the team had signed Laura Harper to a free agent deal for the 2013 season. A former collegiate star at Maryland, injuries have kept Harper out of the WNBA the past few seasons, but she’s now healthy and ready to prove she belongs in the league.

At Maryland, Harper had a storied career. She was a starter on the 2006 National Championship team and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. She’s the Terrapins’ all-time leader in blocked shots, with 198 rejections in her time at College Park. She’s also sixth in career rebounds and her 1,407 career points rank 14th on the school’s all-time list. That last fact is all the more impressive considering she played concurrently with Crystal Langhorne, Marissa Coleman, and Kristi Toliver, who eached topped 2,000 career points and rank 1-2-3 on the school’s scoring charts.

Harper also put up those numbers despite missing the last 23 games of her freshman season after tearing her Achilles’ tendon. She showed resilience from that setback, recovering to lead the Terps to a national title the next season.

Unfortunately, injuries have plagued Harper since she left college. She was drafted 10th overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 2008 draft and played two seasons with the team, averaging 15.2 minutes and 5.0 points per game, a promising start. But  nagging injuries have kept her out of the league since 2009. She seems to have put those issues behind her, as she carved out a successful career overseas recently.

Harper spent the 2011-2012 season in Turkey and averaged 13.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. This year, Harper is averaging 7.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Russian League’s Dynamo Moscow.

With the Fever coming off a WNBA Championship, adding a new player like Harper who is hungry to prove herself could make her an important addition to the locker room. Last year, the team added Erlana Larkins. Like Harper, Larkins played two seasons in the WNBA before dropping out of the league for a couple years. Larkins turned out to be a major factor in the Fever’s championship run last season and if Harper is even half as productive as Larkins, she’ll be a great addition. (Interestingly, North Carolina alum Larkins and Harper battled against each other for four years in the ACC and Harper once named Larkins as the best player she’d ever faced.)

Harper should definitely add size and an interior presence to the Fever’s roster. She’s is listed at 6-foot-5, matching Jessica Davenport and Sasha Goodlett as the tallest players on the team. While the Fever has gotten tremendous production from its 6-foot-1 front court duo of Tamika Catchings and Larkins, the emergence of one of these taller players as a consistent contributor off the bench would give the Fever a new dimension on both ends of the floor. If Harper stays healthy, she could be the one who emerges in that role.

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