Harper steps forward

Justin Parker
February 1, 2018
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Once again, the women’s basketball team is securely in the U Sports top 10, maintaining their ranking throughout the season. The Marauders’ program is usually a stalwart in the national rankings, but this year looks a little different than those in recent memory.

Entering the 2017-2018 season, the Mac women found themselves without their top scorer and one of the most dominant basketball players in the country, Danielle Boiago. The former U Sports Player of the Year is currently playing professionally in the Netherlands, and that left a hole in the Marauders’ roster.

“[The season] started with us kind of doubting ourselves a little bit because we just lost Danielle Boiago and that was a big loss for our team,” said Marauders’ forward Linnaea Harper. “But slowly we were like ‘we are still really good and we have new good incoming players and still have players that played last year that play really good’. And with age comes more experience and skill so every year is something to look forward to. At the beginning of the year we were kind of getting used to the new team and now we are really gelling. I think beginning in 2018 we have really stepped up and shown that we can compete at the highest level.”

Harper, a fourth-year kinesiology major, is one of the key reasons behind the team’s success this year. With Boiago’s nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game missing from the box score, there was a definite void that needed to be filled between Harper and the rest of the Marauders.

“In terms of scoring I had to step up but also get more players involved,” Harper said. “Trying to distribute the ball to other players to score was one of my goals and we have done really well with that. Across the board there are four or five people at least in double digits. How do you defend that?”

While the starting forward missed some contests due to injury, through 13 games played this season, Harper finds herself in or close to the top spot in every major statistical category on the Marauders this season.

Harper leads the team in assists and blocks per game, while sitting in second on the team in points, rebounds and steals per game. Harper also has the third best three-point shooting percentage in the nation with an impressive 44.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

Harper’s excellence on the court is directly a result of being around basketball for most of her life. After being scouted by a teammate’s parent on her soccer team in Grade 3, Harper tried out for the Newmarket All-Star team. After having to commit to one sport over the other in high school, Harper threw herself into basketball and that commitment has paid dividends.

Her time on the hard court and the dedication she brings with her shows up every night on the score sheet. Recently integrating caffeine into her pregame routine, Harper likes getting to the gym pretty early before games, taking time to work on her shot and making sure she is able to free her mind and calm her nerves before the first whistle.

Currently in her fourth year with the team, Harper still enjoys the moments of victory like any athlete, but can also appreciate the efforts of the younger players around her.

“I’m just really thankful for all the opportunities I have been given with being a Maruader athlete,” Harper added. “I am so glad I am here. It’s home.”

“I think when the end of the game is done and we have won, that is number one,” Harper said. “After a stressful close game, pulling out that win is the most satisfying thing because you worked your tail off the entire game. I also think seeing the younger players score and get into it has been something inspiring to me. Because I know I really struggled in my first few years. So seeing Sarah Gates, who has been playing so well. I played with her when she was in Grade 9 and I was in Grade 12 and just seeing what she was then and seeing her be successful now is super cool. Because it wasn’t like that for me, so I kind of live vicariously through her in that way.”

While it has not always been easy for the kinesiology major, being under the tutelage of coach Theresa Burns has definitely been one of the reasons Harper has enjoyed her time as a Marauder so much and continued to succeed on the court.

“She is amazing,” Harper said. “She is relentless. She isn’t much of a ‘yell in your face if you make a mistake’ kind of coach. She knows how to balance the friendship with the ‘hey I’m still your coach, we have to do certain things in order to move forward’. I really respect that because that is a hard relationship to strike with people. Being able to have that respect for her but also be her friend and athlete and player is awesome.”

While Harper is planning on returning to the Marauders next season, there is no time like the present. Based on how well the team is performing, the Newmarket product is dead set on taking her team to the championship this season.

“Obviously I want to win everything,” Harper said. “But I think our first goal is to win [the Ontario University Athletics championship] and then from there just slowly chipping our way at winning a national championship. Every athlete’s dream is winning a national championship. Striving high for that is important. Definitely to win it all, that’s my goal.”

At the end of the day, statistics and trophies make for great conversation, but memories and experiences ultimately stick with an athlete for a lot longer.

“I’m just really thankful for all the opportunities I have been given with being a Maruader athlete,” Harper added. “I am so glad I am here. It’s home.”

With Harper chief among a group of incredibly talented players, the women’s basketball team is positioned to take the country by storm once again this season. Winning is sweet, but winning for a place you consider home is even sweeter.

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