By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Although she hasn’t been at Baylor long, middle blocker Laché Harper has made the most of her time in Waco. In 15 games as a Bear, she’s totaled 50 blocks, 29 kills, seven digs and 55 total points. As impressive as her statistics are, she has just as much of an impact off the court.
“She brought a lot of wisdom and great perspective as we navigated through the social injustice issues and the challenges with COVID,” head coach Ryan McGuyre said. “She’s a very trustworthy person.”
Harper’s arrival at Baylor was years in the making, as 2019 graduate Nicole Thomas was instrumental in bringing her to Waco. Harper and Thomas both grew up in Richmond, Va., and played for the same club team in high school. Once Harper entered the transfer portal, Thomas’ endorsement helped sell the Bears on the former UCF middle blocker.
The interest was mutual. Harper was just as drawn to Baylor as they were to her. She was looking for a welcoming environment and found exactly that with the Bears.
“I definitely feel like the family atmosphere I felt on my visit was just so inviting,” Harper said. “Everyone was just so friendly and welcoming when I came to visit, so that really sold it for me. Of course they’re amazing at volleyball … so that was definitely a plus.”
Harper also noted Baylor’s focus on Christianity as an appealing factor for her, citing team bible studies and the ability to be open about her faith within the team and the university at large as some of the factors that drew her to the program. Off-court factors aside, Harper has fit like a glove on the Baylor front line, and has been key in a number of wins, most notably the matches against West Virginia. Harper was effective against the Mountaineers, with seven blocks in the first match and four in the second.
“I don’t know what was in the air or what it was, but I think everyone was so free and that was the most fun game that I think we’ve played,” Harper said.
Harper comes from an athletic background. Her father Ollie played basketball at Niagara University and her older brother Justin played at the University of Richmond and spent three years in the NBA. In such a competitive family, Harper couldn’t help but strive for success on the volleyball court.
“Seeing how my siblings and my dad just took to sports and their motivation, encouraged me as a child and even as I am now to just push for the limits and know that I can’t get limited by anything,” Harper said.
Harper, the only player on Baylor’s roster that won’t return next season, was honored by the team after the Bears’ final match of the fall, where they swept Kansas State to finish second in the Big 12. Affectionately referred to as ‘Laché Day,’ Harper said the ceremony was fitting for such a key component of the team.
“That was more than anything I could’ve ever dreamed or asked for,” Harper said. “They had a video of my mom, which really just got me, and she was able to come as well to that match … That just meant everything to me.”
Harper and the Bears will be back in action in the spring as they turn their attention to the NCAA championship tournament.