With a last name the same as a medicinal herb known for its calming and healing qualities, Los Angeles Sparks starting center Jantel Lavender has calmed any anxiety about the void of several Sparks’ players Candace Parker, Kristi Tolliver, Nneka Ogwumike) out of commission early this season. Jantel’s stats are the best of her career in average points (15.1), rebounds (9.6), assists (1.8), and minutes (36) played per game. She has already touted five double-doubles this season. Although her additional playing time may be a result of teammate Parker’s absence from the roster, Jantel has shown the WNBA and its fans what she is fully capable of day in and day out.
As a college athlete at The Ohio State University (OSU), Jantel was the only player, male or female, to be selected Big Ten Conference Player of the Year four straight seasons (2007-08 through 2010-11). She is the all-time career scoring leader (2,818 points) at OSU and she holds the rebounding record (1,422) in the NCAA Big Ten Conference.
Originally selected by the Los Angeles Sparks as the number five pick in the first round of the 2011 WNBA Draft, Jantel Lavender currently holds the third best rebounding average per game in the WNBA at 9.6 rebounds per game—closely trailing Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne (9.9 rpg) and Tulsa Shock’s Courtney Paris (10.3 rpg). She also holds the number nine slot for average points per game (15.1 ppg) this season.
On June 23, 2015, I sat down with the six foot four inch starting Sparks center after her team suffered their sixth regular season loss (Washington Mystics 84, Sparks 80). Lavender finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 18 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots.
We chatted a little bit about her fitness, wellness, and nutrition.
What are some of the things you do (on and off season) to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually?
That’s crazy because I actually meditate before games and…yoga helps me a lot just to be calm [and] to stay focused for the game. My regimen is usually just to meditate for 30 minutes before a game—have a quiet, calm area and just kind of reflect on what I want the outcome to be.
What is your prospective on the Los Angeles Sparks’ pre-game warm-up and collective team preparation before games?
We get a really good workout. We sweat a lot—it’s just a lot of movement trying to get your body into game motions. We stretch, but we also do movements that [mimic] some of the stuff that we’re going to see in the game and how we’re going to be defended. It’s great. It’s a good warm-up. We all get a nice sweat going so that we can be ready for the game.
For your position, what type of exercises have proven to be the most beneficial to you on-the-court? And why?
Definitely [the] weight room for sure. I’m always in the weight room. Squats—keeping my legs strong because it’s a lot of bodying and getting low to box out for rebounds. The weight room is my best friend. I love to do upper body because there’s a lot of banging in the post and to get those rebounds you’ve got to be strong. So definitely, hitting the weights hard.
What are your “go-to” healthy snacks and meals?
I love seaweed snacks from Trader Joe’s. I eat those. I shop a lot at Trader Joe’s. I eat a lot of cashews, nuts, and salads and stuff. I try to stay away from red meat. I eat chicken and fish and vegetables. I love salads and spinach. They have a place in L.A. (Los Angeles) called Lemonade. They have a series of like 20 different salads and I go there usually almost all the time for lunch. [I’m] just trying to eat healthy—sometimes I have a donut or something, but most of the time I eat healthy [and] try to stay fueled for the game.
What advice would you give high school girls basketball players who have dreams of playing professionally one day?
Definitely start lifting weights now. It’s separates you tremendously when you get to the collegiate level and professional [level]. I started lifting when I was in the eighth grade. It [provided] a tremendous difference in my speed [and] my strength when I got to those levels. People were shocked [at] how strong I was. And definitely [start] eating healthy. Just making sure you eat healthy and watch your diet. A lot of times girls think it’s not that important when they are that young, but it is. You don’t have to have a strict diet like we (WNBA athletes) do, but I think that making sure you get a salad, making sure you get a well-balanced breakfast—that type of stuff is very essential to their health. I would say the weight room is the number one thing that separated me when I was in high school.
Below are six key takeaways from Jantel’s personal fitness, nutrition, and self-care regimen.
- Set positive intentions and visualize.
- Eat healthy.
- Life weights.
- Incorporate functional and game specific movements into a dynamic warm-up.
It was very clear just how important health, fitness, and nutrition are to Jantel as she passionately spoke about her daily practices and advice for others. She smiled the entire time we spoke.
A special thank you again to Jantel for dedicating her time to speak with me after the game.
Follow Jantel Lavender on Twitter @jlav42
Washington Mystics and WNBA media credential access via Unique Starz Sports & Entertainment