Andy Gottesman / Multimedia Editor
No basketball player had ever won four Big Ten Player of the Year awards before Jantel Lavender.
The 6-foot-4 Cleveland native ended what might be the most productive career the Ohio State women’s basketball program ever has seen. Before she received her diploma on March 20, she was busy rewriting both school and conference record books.
Lavender holds OSU records in points (2,818), rebounds (1,422), field goals made (1,142), field goals attempted (2,156), consecutive games started (135), single-season points (769 in 2009–10), single-season rebounds (374 in 2008–09) and was the first player to score 2,000 career points (in her junior season).
In her final game in scarlet and gray on Saturday, Lavender’s 19-point performance capped a career in which she never registered fewer than 10 points in a game. She holds the NCAA record for most double-digit scoring performances in history, with 136.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach six All-American centers,” coach Jim Foster said. “The numbers Jantel put up in her career speak for themselves — (she was a) model of consistency, day in and day out.”
Aside from holding records, Lavender was the backbone of a team that excelled in a halfcourt offense because of its ability to play from the inside out. Her effectiveness in the post opened up the floor for OSU’s outside shooters.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt recruited Lavender out of Cleveland Central Catholic High School, and even made an unusual lineup change to compensate for her skills on the block when the two teams squared off on Saturday.
Kelley Cain, a player who had only made 17 starts on the season for the Lady Volunteers, was called on because Summitt needed her 6-foot-6 frame to slow down the NCAA’s best player. Cain scored 16 points, but only collected two rebounds to Lavender’s 10.
Lavender went to Knoxville, Tenn., on an official recruiting visit in high school, but said it wasn’t the right fit, despite it being one of the most prestigious programs in college basketball.
“She’s truly one of the best post players that we’ve faced,” Summitt said. “She’s got great skill set. She obviously is very tough-minded, and has done a great job for this Ohio State team and obviously been an impact player throughout her career.”
Lavender’s all-time mark for double-digit scoring performances is nothing new. Even in high school, she never had a game in which she scored fewer than 10 points.
Foster, a veteran coach of 33 years who’s seen many great players, was in no way surprised at the type of career Lavender put together.
“I thought she would come in and be able to do the things that (former center Jessica) Davenport had done. It’s a great run,” Foster said. “I think probably just the way the league was and what our need was, you have to be a little surprised that she was Player of the Year as a freshman, but I don’t think anything she’s done in the three years since then would surprise you, relative to the Player of the Year deal.”
Lavender was not outwardly emotional about the end of her career after Saturday’s loss. She said she was unsure whether she would ever take time to reflect on her four years at OSU.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet,” Lavender said, “but I don’t know.”
Foster chimed in, “Maybe at dinner.”