LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky women’s basketball signee Linnae (La-NAY) Harper is one of 34 top athletes in the country age 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1994), who have accepted invitations to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team trials, USA Basketball today announced. Trials to select the 12-member USA squad will be held May 16-19 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo. Invitations to the trials were issued by the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee.
Harper, a 5-foot-8 guard from Chicago and a former teammate of current Wildcat Janee Thompson at Whitney Young High School, is no stranger to USA Basketball. She won gold medals as a member of the 2012 USA U17 World Championship Team and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Team. She also was awarded an honorary bronze medal in the inaugural 2011 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship.
Harper is ranked as the nation’s No. 5 prospect and No. 2 guard according to ESPN.com, the highest-ranked recruit in UK Hoops history. During her prep career, Harper played for four city championship teams and four Class 4A state-qualifying teams. She led Whitney Young to the 4A Illinois state championship title in 2012 and a third-place finish in Class 4A in 2013. Harper was named to both the McDonald’s All-American team and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American team after averaging 19.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game during her senior season. She was one of five finalists for the Naismith High School Player of the Year award — the only underclassmen to ever be nominated, and was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year. She also was a three-time Illinois Basketball Coaches Association 3A/4A All-State first team member. Harper chose Kentucky over Tennessee, Miami, Ohio State and UCLA.
“This group has a nice nucleus with some former gold medal winners in the mix and some new candidates that will allow us to field a very competitive team,” said committee chair Jim Foster, who has been a member of nine different USA Basketball coaching staffs.
“I think it’s a fantastic, dynamic, diverse group for international play,” said USA and University of Miami head coach Katie Meier. “The committee understands the important parts of what it takes to win internationally. There’s a lot of great and versatile size in this group, some really dynamic players who can do a lot of special things from 20-feet in. This is a really exciting, athletic group who are also very, very skilled. That’s a real sign for the growth of our game throughout the country, that the U19s have this level of skill.
“This is going to be a very competitive trials. We’ve got a lot to play for, and the young ladies who have already won gold have already proven how competitive they are. But, I think there will be another sense of, absolutely, nothing is given. There’s no automatic ‘you’re going to make the team.’ That’s obvious. We don’t even have enough slots for everyone who’s won a gold medal, and then you look at the rest of the talent who’s coming in hungry for their first chance to win gold. We’re going to see a very, very high level of competition and probably some of the best scrimmages we’ve ever seen.”
Six members of the 2012 USA U18 National Team that earned the USA its 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship berth are returning to compete for a spot on the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team – as is the coaching staff. Assisting Meier and the U19 squad are collegiate head coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University. Additionally, American University head coach Matt Corkery, University of Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey and University of Tulsa head coach Matilda Mossman will serve as court coaches during the trials.