Lavender, Prahalis Make USA Basketball Cuts

Ohio State women's basketball stars Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis both made preliminary cuts for national teams in their respective age groups during tryouts last weekend at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Col.

Lavender, a 6-4 All-America center named Big Ten player of the year last season as a sophomore, is one of 14 players left vying for 12 spots on the World University Games team.

She will return to Colorado Springs on June 18 for a week of training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The final team roster will be announced shortly before a June 25 departure for Belgrade, Serbia, where the U.S. will compete in the 2009 World University Games.

Prahalis, a 5-7 point guard named Big Ten freshman of the year last season, also has a return date with the USOTC. She will head west again July 9 to train for and attempt to make the final 12-player roster of the team that will represent the U.S. in Bangkok, Thailand, at the 2009 FIBA U-19 World Championship set for July 23-Aug. 2.

"It means a lot," Prahalis said of making the first cut. "It's real special, and you have to appreciate it.

She said Ohio State head coach Jim Foster, who has for many years been involved with USA Basketball, told her to go to the trials with the intention of being a leader.

"I tried to play defense and do the little things," she said. "At this point, everyone's a great player, so you have to do the little things. I tried to play defense and be a leader as a point guard."

If either Lavender or Prahalis is selected for her team's final roster, neither would be first-time Team USA members.

In 2007, Lavender averaged 16.0 points per game and 8.1 rebounds as Team USA won gold at the U-19 World Championships. That team went 12-0 including exhibition play. One year earlier, Lavender averaged 5.8 points and 6.3 rebounds for the unbeaten U.S. at the U-18 FIBA Americas Championship.

"Winning a gold medal the two times that I have done it meant so much, and it felt so good to know that we worked so hard and we represented our country so well," Lavender said. "Being able to do it again would be another honor for me."

She said she had to rebound from a slow start to the trials but felt good about how she played down the stretch of the weekend.

"I wasn't finishing well during trials, so I'm going to come back and make sure my post moves are very efficient," she said.

Like Lavender, Prahalis is in her third year of competition with Team USA. In 2007, she helped lead her squad to the gold medal at the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival, and a year later she averaged 6.2 points, 3.4 assists and 2.0 steals as the Americans posted a 5-0 mark at the U-18 FIBA Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Prahalis is one of six players from that squad to make the cut this year for the world competition, but among those cut was one of her future teammates, OSU signee Tayler Hill, a guard from Minneapolis, Min.

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