COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State center Jantel Lavender was drafted fifth overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2011 WNBA Draft Monday at the ESPN Studios in Bristol, Conn.

Lavender joins Jessica Davenport (now a member of the Indiana Fever) as the only Buckeyes to be drafted in the first round.

“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.”

The Cleveland, Ohio, native is the fifth Buckeye to be picked in the draft in the last six years and the sixth during head coach Jim Foster’s tenure. Davenport (second overall) and Brandie Hoskins (33rd overall) were each taken in the 2007 draft while Marscilla Packer was taken 41st overall in 2008 by the Phoenix Mercury.

The only four-time Big Ten player of the year and a three-time WBCA All-American, Lavender was fifth in the NCAA with 22.8 points this season and led the Big Ten with 10.9 rebounds in leading the Buckeyes to their second Sweet 16 appearance in three years.

“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 was the Big Ten co-player of the year (media) in 2011, becoming the first women’s or men’s basketball player in conference history to earn the award four times and the only women’s basketball player among the Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC to accomplish the feat. She was the Big Ten tournament Most Outstanding Player for a record third year after averaging 23.7 points per game, 12.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 63.8 percent from the field in the three wins. She also set a Big Ten tournament single-game scoring record with 37 points in the semifinal win over No. 1 seed Michigan State.

Lavender, who earned her bachelor’s degree in sport and leisure studies March 20, leaves as Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer 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.

Ohio State’s WNBA Draft History

Year Player Drafted By Round Pick
1998 Adrienne Johnson Cleveland Rockers Exp. Draft 8
1999 Katie Smith Minnesota Lynx Player Allocation
2001 Jamie Lewis Washington Mystics 3 41
2002 Tomeka Brown Orlando Miracle 4 55
2003 Courtney Coleman Connecticut Sun 2 13
2006 Debbie Merrill Connecticut Sun 2 28
2007 Jessica Davenport San Antonio Silver Stars 1 2
    (traded to New York Liberty)    
2007 Brandie Hoskins Seattle Storm 3 33
2008 Marscilla Packer Phoenix Mercury 3 41
2011 Jantel Lavender Los Angeles Sparks 1 5