For the first eight years of her WNBA career, Jantel Lavender played for the Los Angeles Sparks. During that time, she was an All-Star, won the Sixth Woman of the Year award, and won a championship.
Last weekend, she stepped on the court at Staples Center for the first time as an opponent. Lavender was traded to the Chicago Sky before the season began and this past Sunday marked her return to Staples Center.
While the Sky left LA with a loss, Lavender reflected a bit on her time with the team.
“It was different, it was definitely nerve-wracking at first because I played here for eight years,” Lavender told High Post Hoops. “But ultimately I think our team, we just didn’t play our best. Other than that, I moved on, I’m grateful for the Sparks for my tenure here.”
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When the Sparks drafted Kalani Brown and traded for Chiney Ogwumike, their frontcourt rotation got a little crowded. And with some of the Sparks offseason acquisitions, it seemed like Lavender was the odd woman out.
She wasn’t caught off guard at all when the trade occurred, as she had requested to be moved long before then.
“I knew, I already knew,” Lavender said. “I asked for a trade, I wasn’t surprised by it. I asked for a trade last season so I was expecting it.”
Now, as she’s entered her ninth year in the league, she’s become one of Sky’s veteran leaders. On a team with young talent such as Diamond DeShields, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Kahleah Copper, Lavender is a welcome addition to the locker room.
“Just my experience, knowing what it takes, and it’s just trying to feed that off no matter what I can do,” Lavender said. “Just sharing my experiences with them and letting them know what it takes to be a champion.”
During her tenure with the Sparks, Lavender emerged as one of the better backup centers in the WNBA. In 2016, the year the Sparks won the title, was also the year she won Sixth Woman of the Year with a line of 9.6 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from the field, and 3.6 rebounds.
She also proved she could be a starter in this league as well. The year before, she put up 14.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds while starting all 34 games for the Sparks and being named an All-Star.
This season, she’s started 13 of the Sky’s 14 games thus far and given them a solid presence in the frontcourt.
“It’s whatever role I can play here,” Lavender said. “Obviously I’m starting, but I just want to be the best that I can be night in and night out.”
And while it’s only been 14 games thus far, Lavender has enjoyed this new opportunity. She sees it as a fresh start.
“Yeah, it’s awesome, it’s refreshing,” Lavender said. “I love my teammates, I’ve loved my time here, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”
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