ORU's Kevi Luper not held back by previous injuries
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Sunday, November 04, 2012
11/04/12 at 6:36 AM
Kevi Luper was damaged goods. Or at least that's the way some basketball recruiters once viewed her.
Snakebitten by injuries during her high school career, Luper frightened away recruiters who had been pursuing her. Some coaches didn't want to risk a scholarship on a player who might be too fragile to play Division I hoops.
Now, 95 games and 2,277 points later, Luper has one of the healthiest resumes in college basketball.
A two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American, Luper enters her senior season as Oral Roberts University's all-time leading scorer. She has scored more points over the last three seasons than every player this side of Baylor's Brittney Griner and is on pace to become only the eighth player in Division I women's baskeball history to accumulate 3,000 career points.
Luper said she went through a "terrible" period with injuries while at Adair High School. "Three broken bones and a torn ACL with a broken bone," she said.
ORU ignored the X-rays and Luper feels like she wound up at 81st and Lewis for a reason.
"Luckily, God has blessed me and I have been injury-free and hopefully it continues," she said.
Injury-free? That's not 100 percent accurate. Luper has been hurt, but she played anyway.
Luper coped with an avulsion fracture the last two years. Don't know what an avulsion fracture is? She said a ligament pulled a piece of bone out of place in her left foot.
"Last year it was excruciating," she said. "Then I had tendinitis in both of my knees. I think that is just the wear and tear of basketball, you know? I have been playing for a long time now, but it's nothing that is going to sideline me or end my career or anything like that. It's just athletic pain."
ORU coach Misti Cussen said the average fan would have never known Luper was dealing with an injury issue.
"But I think that's one of the things that is special about Kevi, is Kevi has dealt with her share of little nagging things ..."
Cussen recalled Luper's freshman season, when a hard fall resulted in a sprained elbow. Luper sat out two games and immediately resumed a rookie season in which she led the nation in steals and ranked sixth in scoring.
"I think that says a lot about who Kevi is, is that you never know (she is dealing with pain)," Cussen said.
"She will have days where I will see her immediately iced up after a practice is over and she has never shown that on the practice floor. She is a warrior. She doesn't let you know if she is hurting. If Kevi ever lets you know that she is hurting, it must be pretty severe."
Has Luper broken anything in college? Sure. A lot of records. And at least one rubber band.
Senior forward Savanna Buck said one of her favorite Luper stories occurred when they were freshmen.
During a stoppage of play, Luper was trying to get her hair subdued with a rubber band. The rubber band snapped just before Jaci Bigham threw an inbounds pass. Oops.
Said Buck, "Kevi's hair was down and Jaci slapped the ball, so it was like 'game on.' Kevi runs and gets the ball from Jaci, I go and set a screen for Kevi and she just takes it to the basket and gets an and-one and scores."
Out-of-control hair wasn't going to keep Luper from doing business. Neither did an injury-prone past.
"Kevi doesn't play scared," Cussen said. "She doesn't play worried about an injury. She is full out."
ORU won 20 games and went 14-4 in league play last season but lost in the Summit League Tournament and fell short of reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles, who averaged 22 wins and made WNIT trips the last three seasons, want to take the next step without dwelling on an NCAA Tournament goal.
Jerry Finkbeiner left for Utah State, opening the door for longtime assistant Misti Cussen to take over the Golden Eagle program. Cussen's staff includes third-year assistant Bojan Jankovich and first-year assistants Royce Samuels and Krista Binam, plus first-year director of operations Kyron Stokes.
ORU went 45-9 in Summit League games the previous three seasons. Now the Golden Eagles will try to conquer new territory in their new league, the Southland Conference. The Golden Eagles were picked fourth in a preseason coaches poll. McNeese State snared the top spot.
Nov. 9: at Tulsa 7 p.m.
Nov. 16: at UT-Arlington 2 p.m.
Nov. 19: vs. Arkansas 7 p.m.
Nov. 21: at UALR 5:15 p.m.
Nov. 29: at Missouri St. 7 p.m.
Dec. 5: vs. Evangel * Noon
Dec. 12: at Baylor 6 p.m.
Dec. 14: at La. Tech 7 p.m.
Dec. 20: at Nebraska 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 28: at DePaul 7 p.m.
Jan. 3: at SE Louisiana 5:15 p.m.
Jan. 5: at Nicholls State 2 p.m.
Jan. 10: vs. NW State 5 p.m.
Jan. 12: vs. S.F. Austin 5 p.m.
Jan. 17: at Texas A&M-CC 5 p.m.
Jan. 19: at Sam Houston St. 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 24: vs. Lamar 5 p.m.
Jan. 26: vs. McNeese St. 5 p.m.
Jan. 31: vs. Nicholls St. 5 p.m.
Feb. 2: vs. SE Louisiana 5 p.m.
Feb. 7: at NW State 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: at S.F. Austin 4 p.m.
Feb. 14: vs. Sam Houston St. 5 p.m.
Feb. 16: vs. Texas A&M-CC 5 p.m.
Feb 19: vs. C. Arkansas 5 p.m.
Feb. 28: at McNeese St. 5:30 p.m.
March 2: at Lamar 4 p.m.
March 9: at C. Arkansas 2 p.m.
March 13-16: Southland
Tournament, Katy, Texas
* TTCU Best Field Trip Ever
Players to watch
The senior guard from Adair has been a star - and a consistent scorer - from the moment she arrived on campus, averaging 24.4 points as a freshman, 23.7 points as a sophomore and 23.8 points as a junior. She is a three-time Summit League player of the year, but her farewell tour will take place in the Southland Conference.
The senior guard from McAlester is ORU's only other returning starter and she's this important to the team's fortunes: The Golden Eagles are 38-17 in her career when she scores in double digits. They're 25-13 when she is limited to single digits. She's also the fourth-leading assist producer in school history.
Original Print Headline: Luper still going strong
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
Senior Kevi Luper is ORU's career scoring leader with 2,277 points. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World