Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Kellie Harper has been added to the Werner Ladder Naismith Women's Coach of the Year Late Season List, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced on Wednesday.
Harper is one of 15 coaches on the list, joining fellow SEC skippers Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Gary Blair of Texas A&M.
Harper, in her second year at Tennessee’s helm, has guided her team past a variety of challenges to far exceed the media’s expectations.
The Lady Vols were picked to finish sixth in the SEC, and despite losing starter Keyen Green early in the year, two COVID-19 shutdowns and recent weather complications in Texas, Harper’s Lady Vols have played to a 12-5 overall record, while going 6-3 in the SEC.
Tennessee is currently tied for third in the SEC standings, and in Monday night’s NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee's first top-16 reveal, the Lady Vols were projected as a No. 4 seed, and the 13th rated overall team in the country. If the season were to end today, this would be Tennessee’s seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
Harper has led her team to a number of impressive wins this season. The Lady Vols defeated Big Ten favorite No. 14 Indiana on the road, and handled two top-15 teams in Arkansas and Kentucky at home.
Tennessee played two top-5 teams, UConn and Texas A&M, down to the fourth quarter before eventually falling, and its three remaining losses were to currently ranked teams (No. 19 West Virginia, No. 22 Georgia and No. 17 Kentucky).
Harper’s player development has been critical to Tennessee’s success. Most notably is junior Rae Burrell, who started just nine games last year, but leads the team in both minutes (31.4) and scoring (17.2) per game.
Sophomores Tamari Key and Jordon Horston, as well as senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah, have all taken large steps forward under Harper’s guidance. The group, alongside senior Rennia Davis, gives the Lady Vols a very strong starting five.
Harper and the Lady Vols will return to action this Thursday, as they host No. 2 South Carolina. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.