Former Young star Linnae Harper eager for second season with Sky

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Linnae Harper said it’s surreal that she has the opportunity to play for the Sky, a team she grew up admiring. | Courtesy of Chicago Sky

Guard Linnae Harper did the unthinkable last season.

She was the only player in 2018 — and one of the few in the history of the WNBA — to complete a full season on a roster as an undrafted free agent. The feat was even more special for Harper because she got to play for the Sky.

‘‘For me, a kid from the South Side of Chicago, being able to play for my hometown is honestly a dream come true,’’ Harper said Monday. ‘‘It pushed me out of my comfort zone to go even harder to make myself proud, along with my family and all the people around me that have helped me become the player I am today.’’

Harper had been going to Sky games since they played at the UIC Pavilion. She has a photo on her phone of herself and two friends wearing Sky jerseys at a game in 2007. Harper said going to WNBA games pushed her to train harder.

‘‘Watching all the players motivated me to get into the gym and become a better player, so I could one day be like my idols,’’ she said.

Harper said she aspired to be a pro basketball player from the time she was 5. She was heavily recruited out of Whitney Young and had a standout college career at Kentucky and Ohio State.

But her dreams appeared to take a hit after she went undrafted last spring.

‘‘It was heartbreaking,’’ Harper said. ‘‘I was wondering why and what would be next for me. I had a lot of doubt.’’


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With tears streaming down her face, Harper said she hugged her mother, Ericka, and her grandmother, Linda. The two told her, ‘‘It’s not over yet,’’ and encouraged her not to lose faith in herself.

Harper was back in the gym the next day, working on her skills, and the Sky invited her to training camp on a conditional contract.

‘‘That actually motivated me even more,’’ Harper said.

The rest is history. She broke camp with the team and came off the bench in 24 games last season. When guard Jamierra Faulkner went down with a season-ending knee injury in July, Harper’s playing time increased.

Harper took her talents overseas this offseason. She averaged 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals playing in Israel. During her downtime, she studied film from last season. She also focused on being more controlled with her ballhandling.

Harper is looking forward to taking her game to the next level this season. With Faulkner out for the foreseeable future, she might have a larger role with the team. She already has earned bonus points with coach James Wade for her work ethic and determination.

Looking back, Harper said she’s thankful for her mother’s and grandmother’s encouragement on draft night.

‘‘I’m glad I didn’t give up that night because if I did, I wouldn’t be here,’’ Harper said. ‘‘They’re very supportive of me. . . . I’m very grateful for them.’’

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