- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

Laura Harper has been a defensive presence throughout her career for the Maryland women’s basketball team, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots.

But with Crystal Langhorne and Shay Doron, Nos. 1 and 3 respectively on the program’s all-time scoring list, as teammates, the Terrapins didn’t need to rely on Harper offensively.

This year, Harper is enjoying her best season. And with Doron graduating last spring, it has come right on time.

“She comes ready to play every day, whether it’s in practice or in games,” coach Brenda Frese said. “That’s allowing her to really be consistent this year, which is what her game has been about — focus and consistency.”

Harper showed flashes of her offensive talent during Maryland’s run to the 2006 national championship. She scored 24 points in the Terps’ Final Four game against North Carolina and followed that two days later with a 16-point performance in the national championship game against Duke. She earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors for her efforts.

That capped off a successful sophomore season for Harper in which she scored 11.5 points a game en-route to a career-high 413 points.

Last year, Harper saw both those figures drop, and even worse for the passionate forward, the team struggled. She failed to repeat her successes of the previous year in the NCAA tournament, scoring just seven points in the Terps’ disappointing second-round loss to Mississippi.

Determined to avoid a repeat this season, Harper went to work on her game over the summer. A critical component of that was playing for the under-21 national team, where she and her teammates, including Langhorne, won the gold medal at the 2007 FIBA World Championship in Russia.

“Coming off of losing to Ole Miss, I was down on myself and down on basketball,” Harper said. “I needed to play this summer just to clear my head of that loss and be ready to play this season. Having faced that type of competition, it helps me be even more focused and more confident.”

Harper continued to work on her offense in College Park during the offseason, spending time every day at Comcast Center.

The results are showing on the court. Harper boasts career bests in scoring (13.8 points a game) and field goal percentage (63.8).

“Playing USA Basketball and gaining the confidence she did working hard this summer really laid the foundation for what kind of year she was going to have,” Frese said.

Langhorne, junior Kristi Toliver and junior Marissa Coleman are proven scorers for Maryland. But the Terps still needed to find a way to replace the production of Doron, whom the New York Liberty selected in the second round of the 2007 WNBA Draft.

Harper’s increased output has helped the Terps remain one of the elite scoring teams in the country. Their 82.6 points a game this season ranks second to conference rival North Carolina.

“I’ve worked really hard outside of practices,” Harper said. “It’s my senior year, and I came in more confident. I’m just coming to play, and I have one goal in mind [winning a national championship]. In order for us to get there, I know that I had to pick up a little slack.”

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