Sparks Select Center Jantel Lavender in 2011 WNBA Draft

April 11, 2011

With the fifth overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft, the Los Angeles Sparks addressed their interior needs by selecting Ohio State All-American center Jantel Lavender.

The 6’4” Lavender recently capped one of the most decorated careers in women’s college basketball history with her second-straight Associated Press First Team All-America selection.

The only four-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, Lavender was the nation's fifth-leading scorer, averaging 22.8 points per game, while also grabbing 10.9 rebounds.  In the NCAA Tournament, she led the Buckeyes to their second consecutive Sweet 16.

“Jantel is a great addition to the Sparks,” Los Angeles Head Coach Jennifer Gillom said.  “We’re excited to add a player with her versatility, and Jantel will give us the inside presence we’re looking for.”

Lavender, who earned her bachelor’s degree in sport and leisure studies in March, leaves as Ohio State’s career scoring leader with 2,818 points and the Big Ten’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,422. She scored in double-figures in all 136 career games, an NCAA record.

"I was just totally elated when my name was called,” Lavender said.  “I can't wait for the opportunity to play alongside players like Candace Parker, Tina Thompson, DeLisha Milton-Jones.  I just want to play my role and do whatever it takes to help the Sparks win a title."

"I'm definitely a physical player, and I think being in the WNBA will bring that out of me even more.  I've worked hard on my low-post moves, and can play with my back to the basket."

With its final selection, Los Angeles drafted 5'9" Latvian National Team member Elina Babkina with the 29th overall pick. Babkina, a point guard, is currently playing with Lotos Gdyina in Poland, where she is averaging 13.2 points and 4.0 assists in the EuroLeague.

“Babkina is a talented young guard with tremendous upside, who has the opportunity to benefit our team in the near future,” Gillom stated.

In other draft news, Maya Moore was made the number one overall pick by the Minnesota Lynx. She was followed by Elizabeth Cambage, selected second by the Tulsa Shock, and Courtney Vandersloot, picked third by the Chicago Sky.

The busy Lynx then drafted Amber Harris from Xavier University with the fourth pick, having obtained that slot thanks to a 2010 trade with the Connecticut Sun.

Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said she was extremely pleased to be able to add Moore and Harris to a Lynx roster that includes veterans such as Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. “To add these two,” said Reeve, “I don’t know that things could have gone better for us.”

Minnesota held the top pick for the second consecutive year and third time in franchise history.
Few players have entered the WNBA with the resume that Moore can boast. Not only did she earn the 2011 Associated Press Player of the Year award, but she also became only the second four-time AP All-America.  In the end, Moore helped the Huskies to a 150-4 record over her four-year career, including two national championships and an NCAA-record 90 consecutive wins.

By Staff of

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