by Paul Sykes
Shelby Harper is always ready on the bench, never knowing if her name will be called.
Lately, it hasn’t been often. Two minutes in the last two games. But when Jeff Walz called her number with 11 minutes left against South Florida on Wednesday, the 5-foot-4 junior responded with six points, six rebounds and a lock down defense on USF’s scoring machine.
Did I mention that U of L was behind by eight points when she entered the game? Over the next six minutes, the Lady Cards would outscore USF 15-0.
“I knew we needed to pick up our defense and stop them from scoring,” she shyly told the media after her team’s 63-57 win. “I feel like every day we’re in practice that defense is what leads us into our offense. If we’re having problems on offense, I know we need to pick up the defense. I knew when I went in there I had to pick everyone else up on defense.”
Roll back to Louisville clinging to a 58-52 lead with 2:10 remaining. Shelby comes in from the weak side and tries to cut in front of 6-foot-4 Caitlin Rowe. She is determined to block her out from the rebound and does the job.
“It’s hard to find players like her,” said Jeff Walz. “A lot of the kids feel entitled. If I could get my other ten players to work as hard as Shelby does and not be upset if they don’t get “X” amount of minutes per game…we would be really good.”
Shelby is 5-foot-4 on a good day. Ten feet tall in heart and desire.