Lavender thinks best yet to come

Ellen Geyer
Jantel Lavender played her first eight WNBA seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. [The Associated Press file photo]

In her nine-year WNBA career, Jantel Lavender has won a team championship, made the All-Star team and been named Sixth Woman of the Year.

But the former Ohio State standout doesn't think she has reached her full potential yet.

After spending eight seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, the 6-foot-4 Lavender was traded to the Chicago Sky in May. Her transition to a new city also came with a new role, as the 30-year-old Cleveland native has found herself consistently in the starting lineup for the first time since 2014.

“We thought it was important to add another veteran to our core, especially a player that has championship experience like Jantel does,” Sky coach James Wade said at the time of the trade. “I have always valued her skill set. She’s a player that helps make teams better and brings players together.”

Lavender knows she can be that spark, particularly as she transitions back into the post position after being more of a midrange shooter in Los Angeles.

“James is allowing me to go back to the basket again and be able to feel comfortable down in the paint,” Lavender said. “Once (my teammates) really see that and I start to feel comfortable with the ball in crucial positions, then they’ll believe in all the other things that I can do — the things I did in college.

"I’m slowly but surely getting to that.”

Lavender had her best game in a Sky uniform one week ago against Dallas, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in a 78-66 Chicago win.

“I felt like myself again,” Lavender said. “That’s what makes me happy about being here — I’m starting to feel like Jantel.”

Lavender also had 10 rebounds against the Wings. She averages 6.8 rebounds per game.

“I want to get even more rebounds than I’ve been getting. It’s the relentless pursuit of the ball,” Lavender said. “Because this team is the exact same as it was last season, with myself being the addition, I have to come in and do those small things in order for them to understand that I’m here, they can believe in me and I’ll work hard for the team.”

Lavender believes she can become as elite in the WNBA as she was at Ohio State, where she was the only basketball player — woman or man — to be Big Ten player of the year for four straight seasons.

“I know that I have a role here. I know that it can be huge here,” Lavender said of her play in Chicago. “I know that if I stay consistent with the little things … those things will help to push me forward.”



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