The Kentucky Wildcats women's basketball team is suffering a huge loss on the eve of their 2015-16 season starting. Star shooting guard Linnae Harper is transferring from the school, head coach Matthew Mitchell announced in a press release after Jen Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier reported the news.
"Linnae has decided to leave our program and seek a transfer elsewhere," Mitchell said. "We appreciate everything Linnae gave our program in her two years here and we wish her nothing but the best on and off the court moving forward."
Harper had a breakout sophomore season for the Wildcats last season as she was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team after leading the team in rebounding (7.1) and steals (2.0) per game. She ranked third on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game.
Standing at just 5-foot-8, Harper became the shortest player to lead UK in rebounding in school history and was the only player in the nation to stand at 5-8 or under and average more than 7.0 board per contest. She also is the first guard in UK Hoops history to grab a team-high rebounding mark since Stacey Reed in 1994-95. All seven of Harper’s career double-doubles came last season, including four in SEC play. She was also a member of the SEC Winter Sports Academic Honor Roll.
Harper spent the summer playing with United States women's basketball team in the Pan American Games. She even hit a pair of game-winning free throws that propelled Team USA to a 65-64 victory over Cuba to secure a spot in the gold medal game.
Even with the loss of Harper, Mitchell is still excited about his team this season as it inches closer.
"I am very excited about the team that we have and the work we are putting in as the season nears," Mitchell said. "We have another challenging schedule this season, especially in the nonconference, and it’s important we don’t waste any opportunity to improve this preseason as we head into our season opener vs. Rice."
Make no mistake about it: Harper was going to be the second or third-best player on a team many believe is top-10 caliber and capable of reaching the school's first Final Four. This is a brutal loss that is only worse because it's coming so close to the season opening.
Still, whatever happened that led to this, hopefully Harper ends up finding a situation where she'll be happy and thrive at.