If you have followed my columns for awhile, you know that occasionally I like to have an established central Ohio athlete give advice to young people who are trying their sport. Rick Nash has helped out in hockey and Danny O'Rourke has passed on advice in soccer to name a couple.

If you have followed my columns for awhile, you know that occasionally I like to have an established central Ohio athlete give advice to young people who are trying their sport. Rick Nash has helped out in hockey and Danny O'Rourke has passed on advice in soccer to name a couple.

This year I gleaned information from one of the standout women's basketball players in the United States.

Jantel Lavender is the leading scorer on the Big Ten champion Ohio State women's team and has developed into an All-American as a junior in college. The energetic and likeable star of the Scarlet and Gray gives her opinions on how to develop into an effective player in her sport.

1. What is a good age to start playing basketball competitively?

I am real different from others on this question. I didn't play organized basketball until I was 12 and in the seventh grade and I think it helped me a lot. I think if you start too young you can't absorb the necessary information to make yourself better and you might risk getting tired of basketball. As a junior in college now, I still feel fresh playing the game, so be careful about getting started too early.

2. What are the important things to learn early?

I think getting your coordination down is very important when you are getting started with basketball. You can do this by doing lots of passing drills, footwork drills, jumping rope, shooting free throws and working on all the basic fundamentals of the game. Remember, shooting is just one phase of basketball.

3. How about the competitiveness when you are beginning?

I truly believe you have to have fun with basketball. The serious side will come with time, so enjoy practicing and enjoy playing this great sport. I see 4- and 5-year olds being serious when they are playing and I don't like it. Remember that if you don't enjoy something to the fullest, you probably won't succeed in it.

4. What advice do you have for high school girls playing basketball?

I would tell them that the way to get better has to come within you. It took me a couple of years to understand that basketball is just a game and the attitude you have when you play comes from experience. You have to be a good teammate and understand that if you are close as a team, you win and lose together. That feeling of being a team is critical to making you better in your sport.

5. How do you develop mental toughness?

Trust your coaches because they have the knowledge to continually make you better. Be open to learning and just become a sponge and absorb as much as you possibly can. Listen, listen, listen to what your coaches are teaching you. The more you learn, the more confident you will become.

6. What advice do you have for coaches?

Teach as much as you can to your team, but don't over-teach. Use the talent you have according to their abilities. Work on making your team a close unit and always try to make each player feel important.

7. What advice do you have for parents of students learning basketball?

I know you want to share this basketball experience with your child, but let their coaches coach them and don't get too wrapped up in their world. Most important, when they come home from a game or practice, let them enjoy home!

8. What is really great about playing hoops?

Basketball can be so much fun. You can master the sport if you are willing to learn and if you are receptive to your coaches. Basketball takes a willingness and maybe you are not the most talented player, but basketball can make you feel special and you can develop a lifelong philosophy that there are no limitations on what you can do. The sky is the limit.

•Thanks and good luck to Jantel and all the Buckeyes as they head to the Big Ten Tournament next week and congratulations on another Big Ten title.

I'll see you at a game.

Larry Larson is a former athletics director at Grandview High School. He can be heard as "Mr. High School Sports" on WTVN 610 AM.