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Last updated: 03/30/2011 0:46 AM

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Basketball
OSU Centers of Attention Earn All-American Accolades
By Tony Gerdeman

One just finished up a remarkable career, and the other just kicked one off, but both were recognized this week as Associated Press first team All-Americans.

Jantel Lavender
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jantel Lavender
Jantel Lavender, the first four-time Big Ten Player of the Year in either men's or women's basketball, was named to the AP All-American team for the second year in a row.

Jared Sullinger, the freshman center from Columbus, added to his budding accolades by becoming just the eighth Buckeye to ever earn first team All-American honors from the AP.

Sullinger scored 17.2 points per game this year and averaged 10.1 rebounds per game for the Buckeyes.  He becomes the seventh freshman over the past five seasons to be named first team All-American by the Associated Press.

Jared Sullinger
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jared Sullinger
Sullinger also becomes the third Buckeye in the last five seasons to be named All-American, joining Greg Oden in 2007 and Evan Turner in 2010.

What Sullinger accomplished this season is no small feat. Unless, that is, you measure it against what Jantel Lavender has done in her four years at Ohio State.

Lavender finished fifth in the NCAA in scoring this year at 22.8 points per game and led the Big Ten in rebounds, averaging 10.9 per game.

She finished her career having scored in double figures in all 136 games that she played, an NCAA record. She leaves Ohio State as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,818 points and is also the Big Ten's all-time leading rebounder with 1,422 boards. 

“To be named among the nation’s best is always a tremendous honor and it’s great to see your hard work pay off,” Lavender said.

“We went through some ups and downs this season and I think that helped me stay focused and become an even stronger leader for my team. I definitely have to thank my coaches and teammates for helping me achieve this recognition. Without them this wouldn’t be possible.” 

As Buckeye fans say goodbye to one dominant force, they may not have to say goodbye to both. Sullinger has been emphatic that he will be returning for his sophomore season.

Those encouraging words no doubt fire up his head coach, who has made no secret of the way he feels about his outstanding freshman.

''I felt he was going to have a great impact not just on our program but on college basketball," Thad Matta said.

"The productivity he's had throughout the course of the season has really been incredible. He is so much fun to coach. As I've said, if I was starting a team, I'd select him to be our first player.''

It looks like he's going to get that opportunity for at least one more year.

Individually, Lavender and Sullinger have certainly made their marks on Ohio State, and those impressions are going to be felt for years.

Not only did they stabilize the happenings on the court, but they've also been instrumental in stabilizing their respective basketball programs.

Jim Foster had four years of Lavender providing a sturdy base for his team, and that led to three Big Ten Tournament championships.

Matta doesn't know exactly how long he'll have Sullinger, but he does know that while he's here, he's going to use him. It's that same aggressive mindset from the coach that is mirrored in Sullinger, and we've seen the results on a game-by-game basis.

Lavender and Sullinger were like two ships passing in the night at Ohio State.

Rather, two ships rebounding in the night.

The footprints left by such large feet won't be easy to fill, but at least those who come after will have an easy path to follow.

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