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Lavender has last chance to leave her ideal legacy

Chris Uhler / Lantern photographer

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In her first three seasons at Ohio State, Jantel Lavender has accomplished almost everything one could expect from the Cleveland-native center.

But OSU coach Jim Foster thinks her career is yet to be defined.

“I think Jantel’s career will be measured by championships more so than points scored,” Foster said.

Postseason success is the biggest element missing from Lavender’s resume. In Lavender’s time at OSU, only once has her team advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“We haven’t had the postseason run that we need to,” Lavender said. “Our team just has to be more strong and more together and, you know, more cohesive, for us to go far.”

Lavender enters the 2010-11 season as one of the most decorated players in college basketball. She was selected to the Associated Press Preseason All-American team and the watch list for the Wooden Award, which is awarded to the best male and female athletes in college basketball.

She was also named the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. Should Lavender win her fourth straight Big Ten Player of the Year award after the season, she would be the first in conference history to do so.

Lavender said she has her sights set beyond just earning all-conference honors.

“The goal is to be a national player of the year,” Lavender said.

She has all the tools to earn that honor. In her first three seasons at OSU, Lavender has averaged 20 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and is 534 points shy of Katie Smith’s OSU career scoring record, as well as 63 rebounds short of Tracey Hall’s OSU career rebounding record.

Lavender said individual accomplishments come second to team goals.

“If my team needs me to get 30, or if my team needs me to get 18 points and 25 rebounds, then that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said.

Lavender’s career has gotten help from junior point guard Samantha Prahalis, who is on pace to break the school’s career assist record this season.

“Sammy in the open floor is very, very talented, she really is, and you like a complement to that,” Foster said. “Not often is that complement a (center). Usually you see guards finishing plays. To have a center who can run like that, catch like that and finish like that, I think that’s a little different.”

Foster compared the chemistry between his point guard and center to that of NBA Hall of Fame members and former Utah Jazz teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton.

“That’s a fair one,” Prahalis said when asked about the comparison. “He always says that.”

Lavender said she agreed with the evaluation but offered her own comparison for the duo.

“I always try to say, you know, (Steve) Nash and (Amar’e) Stoudemire,” Lavender said. “I think that his comparison is just something to make us see where we are in our game.”

After this season, Lavender will take her professional-ready game to the next level, where she is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft. But first, she has some unfinished business.

“I don’t think that we’ve gotten to the place that I want to be, you know, as a far as a team,” Lavender said. “I want a national championship.”

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