Sports | Basketball

Lomax headed to WNBA training camp

For the consummate “team player” who wanted nothing more than to win an Ivy League championship, leaving the Columbia women’s basketball team with a semester of eligibility remaining and the conference title still elusive could not have been easy. But Judie Lomax was forced to make a tough decision when she was given an opportunity to join the Women’s National Basketball Association.

On April 23, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun announced that it had signed Lomax to a training camp contract. The deal gives Lomax the chance to join a roster that includes the likes of Tina Charles, a first team All-American at the University of Connecticut and the No. 1 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for her that she’s worked hard for, and she deserves,” Columbia head coach Paul Nixon said. “She’s definitely earned this chance.”

Lomax impressed Sun head coach Mike Thibault when Columbia hosted Monmouth University on Dec. 13. In that matchup, Lomax scored 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Thibault—whose daughter, Carly, plays for Monmouth—was in attendance and spoke with Nixon after the game.

A few months later, Thibault and Nixon again communicated, this time after the 2010 WNBA Draft.

“He [Thibault] contacted me to let me know that they [the Sun] wanted to invite her [Lomax] to their training camp,” Nixon said. “From that point, I had to pass along information, and then Judie started communicating directly with them.”

Lomax finished her Columbia career with accomplishments that extend beyond the one performance witnessed by Thibault. She is the Lions’ all-time second-highest rebounder with 799 boards and their 10th highest scorer with 918 points, all in just two seasons of play. In addition, her 27 rebounds against Brown on March 6 is a Columbia single-game record.

While Lomax became the face of Columbia women’s basketball, she was not always a Lion. Lomax began her collegiate career at Oregon State University, where she averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2006-07 season. Her field goal percentage of .645 was the best in the Pac-10 Conference that year, and Lomax was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.

But Lomax chose to transfer to Barnard College and play for Columbia, a program that had recruited her out of high school. She did not compete in the 2007-08 season due to NCAA regulations, returning to the hardwood for the Lions’ 2008-09 campaign.

While Columbia finished that season with a disappointing 6-8 Ivy League record, Lomax compiled impressive individual statistics. She converted 53.6 percent of her field goals and scored 14.2 points per game while leading the nation with 14.3 boards per contest. As a result of her efforts, Lomax received all-Ivy first team honors.

Lomax had little room for improvement following that season, but she continued to refine and expand her skill set in the Lions’ most recent campaign. She led the Ivy League with 18.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game en route to being named Columbia’s first Ivy Player of the Year. Lomax scored at least 20 points on 12 occasions, two of which were 30-point performances.

Lomax’s rebounding average was once again the highest in the nation, making her the only NCAA Division I women’s basketball player to achieve the distinction in consecutive campaigns. Lomax also garnered honorable mention All-American status from the Associated Press.

Due to Ivy League rules, Lomax was left with just one semester of eligibility after the 2009-10 campaign. Nixon believes that this restriction made Lomax’s departure more likely than it would have been had she had an entire year of eligibility remaining.

“If she had had the opportunity to come back and play a full fifth year, I don’t think that we’re having this conversation,” he said. “I think she’s coming back to the team next fall, ready to pick up where she left off. But that’s, unfortunately, not the situation that she was in.”

“It really put us in a difficult place,” Nixon continued. “Because, it’s like, how do you play half a year without the Player of the Year and then hope she’s able to come back and just jump right in? You just don’t ever know what that situation’s going to be like.”

Nixon was not surprised that Lomax received an offer from a WNBA team, and he understands her decision to accept it.

“The percentage of college athletes that get an opportunity to go on and play at the next level is so miniscule,” he said. “When your chance comes, it’s hard to pass up.”

Lomax could not be reached for an interview as she is in Connecticut with the Sun.

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