Sophomore center Cady Lalanne knows how critical his role is to the Massachusetts men’s basketball team this season.
With the graduation of energetic and active center Sean Carter, Lalanne feels it’s on his shoulders to replace Carter’s intensity on the floor, something he feels comfortable doing.
“I feel like that’s in me and that’s natural,” Lalanne said before practice on Friday. “Now I just gotta get that motor up and keep it running consistently every time I’m on the court.”
But Lalanne has other things to worry about besides bringing energy to the floor. The Orlando, Fla., native is coming off a foot injury that forced him to miss the final 23 games of the season.
Lalanne was limited to a spectator role for the vast majority of the season, sitting on the bench as the Minutemen embarked on a wrecking course through the Atlantic 10 tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., and the National Invitation Tournament in New York City, which saw UMass win five of its last seven games of the season, capped by a loss to Stanford in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Despite missing a significant portion of the season, Lalanne feels that sitting on the bench offered him alternative, yet valuable, learning experience.
“I learned so much more from a coach’s point of view instead of the player’s point of view,” Lalanne said. “As I was sitting there, the coaches would always bump me (with) something, ‘Look at this, look at that.’ So I learned a lot of the little things that usually a player wouldn’t notice but coaches see it all the time.”
As for his foot injury, Lalanne says it doesn’t enter his head once he takes the court.
“As soon as I’m out there playing, I don’t think about it any more at all,” he said. “If I feel a little discomfort in it, I’ll probably slow down a little bit and tell the trainers, but if there’s no discomfort, no bad feeling, I just don’t think about it at all.”
Lalanne didn’t appear to be hindered by the injury on Friday, wasting no opportunity to push off the court and sky over the rim during drills.
Post presence needed
It’s no secret that the Minutemen want to get out in transition this season, just as they did last year. With electric point guard and A-10 first-teamer Chaz Williams running the point, UMass tries to maximize its athleticism on the fast break.
But as teams started to neutralize the Minutemen’s effectiveness in transition by darting back on defense, the glaring need for a post scorer was exposed at times, especially in the team’s half-court sets. If the opposition contested UMass’ shooters on the perimeter, it struggled to find easy baskets on offense.
Lalanne likely would have helped the Minutemen in that regard if not for his injury. Carter, after all, was more of a defensive-oriented big man that had occasional glimpses of post-production on offense.
Lalanne feels the lack of a post scorer hindered UMass last season.
“I feel like last year (that was) probably one of the down falls, even Sean knew that last year because he even knew himself that he’s not a great post scorer like that,” Lalanne said. “I feel like this year I gotta be a presence in the paint as a go-to basket if they need me in the post, I can easily turn around for a hook shot.”
In his limited action, Lalanne averaged 6.7 points per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the field.
With an already explosive backcourt, Lalanne’s play in the post could catapult the Minutemen into a legitimate contender for an NCAA tournament bid come March.
Stephen Sellner can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.