The offseason can be difficult. After a season where the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team won a conference title and made it to the Sweet Sixteen, the void is deafening. Luckily, the Ohio State Buckeyes don’t stop competing once the madness of March lessens. Here’s an update on how former Buckeye are doing in the professional game.
On Friday, May 6, the WNBA started its 26th season, and two former Scarlet & Gray standouts made an impact.
Indiana Fever’s Kelsey Mitchell was huge for the Buckeyes before she joined the WNBA in 2018. At Ohio State, Mitchell secured three Second Team All-American honors and a First Team All-American award. Entering Mitchell’s fifth season in the WNBA, the 2018 second overall pick in the WNBA draft has consistently held that level of performance.
As the second full week of the WNBA season begins, Mitchell’s on her way to a career season. In five games, Mitchell’s started all five and has averaged career highs in points, three-point field goal percentage, assists and rebounds. While there’s still a lot of the season left to go, Mitchell is scoring 22 points per game for the Fever.
A reason for Mitchell’s hot start to the season was her offseason. Mitchell didn’t go the route of many of her WNBA co-workers of playing in Europe. Instead, Mitchell competed in the Athletes Unlimited (AU) basketball season.
AU is a player-run league where athletes earn points for everything they do on the court and play with different teams each week. Mitchell took part in the inaugural year, and won a captaincy early in the five-week season. Captains are selected on who has the most points on the league leaderboard at the end of each week.
Mitchell cut her AU season short to join USA Basketball. The guard helped the United States qualify for this summer’s Basketball World Cup. With all that domestic experience, Mitchell entered the WNBA season firing on all cylinders.
Indiana lost their first two games of the season, with Mitchell scoring 18 and 15 respectively. Mitchell went off after the pair of defeats. The Fever are 2-1 since, and Mitchell’s led the way scoring 26, 24 and 27 points against the Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty and a loss against the Atlanta Dream, respectively.
Another former Buckeye in the United States’ top league is forward Jantel Lavender. The 11-year WNBA veteran and former WNBA champion signed with her fourth team in four years when she agreed to join the Seattle Storm.
Lavender left Indiana after one season, and so far in Seattle she’s come up with important minutes as the team’s faced early hurdles. Several Seattle teammates, including league star Breanna Stewart, missed games due to COVID-19.
Seattle had the league minimum needed to compete with eight players available against the Phoenix Mercury. Lavender received the start, and had five assists and four rebounds. It was sound production in 18:51 minutes played — minutes that Lavender wasn’t expected to hit regularly when the Storm are healthy.
Prior to the season, Lavender also competed with Mitchell in the AU Basketball season. Lavender finished in eighth place out of 44 competitors, playing in all 15 games of the season.
A key piece off the bench for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 21/22 season was forward Tanaya Beacham. The Ohio native didn’t go to the WNBA, but signed a professional contract with the Sunshine Coast Phoenix of the Australian Women’s National Basketball League. Beacham’s started five games for the Phoenix to start their season, and although Sunshine Coast hasn’t won a game, Beacham is performing.
In five games, Beacham averages 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Those are good enough for the fourth most points on the team and most rebounds.
There’s one final name in the WNBA, although technically there was a transfer involved. Alliance, Ohio native Kierstan Bell, who played with the Buckeyes between 2019 and 2020, transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University for the 20-21 season.
After two phenomenal seasons in the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Las Vegas Aces drafted Bell with the 11th pick of the first round. In four appearances, Bell hasn’t scored any points yet, but breaking into the Aces roster is a tough challenge. Bell only averages 6.5 minutes across those four games.
Check out Land-Grant Holy Land all season for more updates from former Buckeye basketball players as they make headlines throughout the world.