Erlana Larkins WNBA career hasn’t gone as many predicted after her graduation from the University of North Carolina in 2008.

A first-round draft pick by the New York Liberty that year, Larkins spent a couple of seasons in the Big Apple but was waived by the team in their 2010 training camp.

The Phoenix Mercury brought her into their camp the following year but waived her before the start of the season.

Indiana, believing she could be an asset in the rebounding department, signed her to a free-agent contract in March and this time, she earned a place in the squad.

The Fever, especially after her 16-point, 15-rebound performance on Sunday in their 76-70 triumph at Minnesota in the opening game of the WNBA Finals, know they made a very wise decision to keep Larkins.

“She is exactly the type of player we’ve been looking for, what I call a warrior,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.

“She does all the dirty work.”

Larkins, after two years out of the league, played less than 16 minutes per game during the regular season, averaging 4.1 points and 4.4 rebounds.

But those numbers have increased substantially in the play-offs to 11.6 points and 10.9 rebounds.

“This is my first time in the WNBA Finals,” Larkins said.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been out of the league for two years.

“I just tried to go out and let the game come to me.”

Charged with the responsibility of helping control WNBA MVP Tina Charles of Team USAof the Connecticut Sun in the Semi-Finals, Larkins was terrific.

She averaged 7.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Fever’s 2-1 series triumph.

After her team’s Game 1 triumph over Minnesota, Larkins was asked about the might of the Lynx, who have three USA Olympic gold-medal winners in Lindsay WhalenSeimone Augustus and Maya Moore, and the fierce rebounding machine Rebbekah Brunson.

“We’ve made it to this point, what’s there to fear? Larkins said.

“We know they’re the defending champions and they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game. …

“So what, they’re the defending champs? We’re here to take one.”

Larkins, who had spent the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns in Turkey with Samsun Basketbol and Mersin, respectively, hasn’t played for the USA senior team.

She was a member of her country’s gold-medal winning side at the 2006 FIBA Americas U20 Championship for Women.

Still only 26, maybe seeing her in a USA shirt in Turkey at the FIBA World Championship for Women is not out of the realm of possibility.

Winning a WNBA title wouldn’t hurt her chances.


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