Raining Three’s: Larissa Lurken lights it up for the Flashes

Kent State freshman Larissa Lurken drives the ball past Buffalos Margeaux Gupilan against the Bulls, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

Erin McLaughlin

Kent State freshman Larissa Lurken drives the ball past Buffalo’s Margeaux Gupilan against the Bulls, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

Taylor Rosen

Freshman guard Larissa Lurken never missed a day of practice during her career at Park High School in Cottage Grove, Minnesota.

She split her time between playing basketball year round and running cross-country for the Wolfpack. Despite such a limited off-season Lurken was able to avoid the injury bug that most year round athletes usually run into.

Lurken’s luck ran out 14 games into her first season with the Flashes. After a loss to Ball State on January 12th, she was forced to sit out for six games due to a stress fracture in her ankle. It was the first injury Lurken had sustained in her athletic career. No longer able to contribute on the court, the 5-foot-9 guard had to carve herself a new role.

“More than anything else I think she improved her vocal presence for our team,” said Kent State head coach Danielle O’Banion. “She was engaged in practices, she helped herself get better by forcing herself to talk.”

Lurken was determined to get herself back in uniform as quickly as possible. Following the advice of head athletic trainer Colleen Witkopp, Lurken used an exercise bike and cardio workouts to get herself back into game shape.  

“Our athletic trainer had a huge impact, like I said I’ve never been out before,” said Larissa Lurken. “She had to help me figure out the process of being out with an injury. She told me what exactly I should do to have my leg heal correctly, and to try and prevent any other future injury.”

Since returning from the injury that forced her to miss nearly a month of action, Lurken has provided the Flashes with a much-needed spark of energy.

“Being injured definitely motivated me, it was extremely hard to sit out and watch for those six games,” said Lurken. “I knew that if I just kept supporting my teammates that they would be encouraging me when I came back. It pushed me to work a bit harder, I knew that when I came back I was going to have to make that same impact that I was making before the injury occurred.”

Lurken has made an even greater impact than she envisioned since returning from her injury. In the Flashes’ last three games, Lurken is averaging 14 points a game and has provided a much needed boost of energy for her teammates.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say my role changed, I think my team just needed me more since I’ve came back. Being off the court you get to really see what your team is like when you’re not out there,” said Lurken.

Lurken has been extremely efficient from behind the three-point line since returning to the lineup for the Flashes. Lurken helped the Flashes earn their first road win of the season at Western Michigan, by shooting four of four from behind the three point line all in the first half.

“It makes a big difference to have another shot maker in the lineup,” said O’Banion. “Larissa certainly has made her presence felt in the last three games. From a shot-making standpoint, it’s obvious that she helps us, but she also helps our team basketball IQ. In terms of understanding what we’re trying to accomplish defensively, and just being a smart enough basketball player to find a great shot. If it’s not for herself, it’s for her teammate.”

When the Flashes returned home to play Buffalo, Lurken put on another great shooting display. Lurken finished the game with 14 points on four of six from behind the three-point line.

O’Banion said Lurken developed a better feel for her game when she was forced to watch from the bench.

“Larissa has been more assertive as a shot maker, earlier this year she was tentative and unsure about when she was supposed to shoot the ball. Since she’s had the opportunity to sit and observe in those six games I think it really helped her clarify in her own mind how she helps our team be better. So when she has been back in the lineup she has been much more willing to take and make shots for us,” said O’Banion.

The injury forced Lurken to focus on other aspects of her game because she was limited in what she could do in practice.

“Larissa had to be more creative with regards to how much she was able to do on the floor,” said O’Banion. “When she was out she couldn’t exactly shoot the basketball a whole bunch, so she worked on her ball handling.”

Jennifer Poff, who is an assistant coach for the Flashes, working specifically with the guards of the team, said Larissa is an extremely tough competitor.

“I know it was tough for her to sit out those games,” said Poff. “But it was best for her so she could get healthy for the end of the year. As far as her work ethic, she is a tough kid and doesn’t like to show that she’s hurt.”

Poff said that Lurken’s work ethic was crucial to the freshman’s recovery.

“She was going to do everything she could to get back on the court as quickly as possible,” said Poff. “She worked hard and was a great teammate off and on the court when she was out. She stayed engaged and came early to practice and sometimes stayed late to get those shots and her confidence up.”

With three games remaining this season, the Flashes have already doubled their win total from last season and have earned two more conference wins than they did a season ago.

“I wouldn’t put a set record on our hopes for next season but I would definitely say more wins then what we have this year. I know we can do it because this year we have eight new people on the team, it’s hard to come together for the first time and play together,” said Lurken. “Hopefully that just continues to grow and like I said get more wins than we have this season. I think we could be really good next year and I’m really excited for it,” Lurken said.

Contact Taylor Rosen at [email protected].