Building his palace: Cady Lalanne primed for big season with Minutemen
Cady Lalanne receives a bounce pass from point guard Chaz Williams in the post, standing with his back to the basket on the left block.
Williams’ pass is threaded dangerously, reaching around a defender as he practically shovels the ball through a congested paint area where Lalanne is waiting. The ball is swallowed up in one swift motion, Lalanne gathers, spins into the lane and takes just a single step, finishing on the opposite side of the basket. On this occasion, he finishes with a layup. Plenty of other times in practice, he’s delivered a dunk so thunderous that it’s shaken the base of the standalone hoop inside Curry Hicks Cage.
Just a few plays later, Lalanne stands at midcourt as the team practices its full court defensive pressure, barking out commands and demonstratively signaling to other members on his team.
It’s a simple practice on Halloween, yet another intrasquad scrimmage for a team anxiously awaiting its season opener on Nov. 10 against Boston College. But if you look closely, the evolution of a center is at work.
Lalanne’s the first to tell you this year is different.
“I think being in shape is a big difference for me,” he said. “I feel like I could’ve done a lot more but being out of shape kinda hindered me a little bit because I wouldn’t have the explosion I needed or I wouldn’t be as quick as I needed to be.”
He’s shown promise in his first two seasons at UMass but hasn’t reached his full potential, battling nagging foot injuries and off-the-court distractions. Lalanne took it upon himself to change that. He added five pounds of muscle over the summer, toning his body and adding a noticeable amount of muscle mass.
“Now that I’m in shape I can have all that extra stuff,” Lalanne said.
Working with a legend
Lalanne’s also utilized the help of a legend, leaning on the wisdom of Minuteman legend Lou Roe, who joined Derek Kellogg’s staff as an administrative assistant last season. Roe’s No. 15 hangs from the rafters in the Mullins Center and the former power forward’s 1,905 points rank third all-time. As soon as Roe arrived on campus, a mutual connection to work together formed.
“(Roe) just teaches you all the small little things that you wouldn’t really think about,” Lalanne said. “The little things he teaches you, they probably won’t be that big but they make such a big difference when you’re out on the court.”
Roe describes himself as Lalanne’s mentor, available to communicate and make Lalanne the best basketball player he can be.
“He has some interesting (goals),” Roe said. “Wanting to be the dominant player in the Atlantic 10 Conference, possibly one of the premier big men in the country.
“(I’m) just giving him some ideas to reflect upon each and every day to get to that point where he feels comfortable that he’s helping this team.”
Roe’s experience in the post – he played 17 seasons professionally after leaving UMass – is translating to Lalanne’s game. The two have spent ample time together working on moves, discussing basketball and watching film since early September.
“I worked more on the post, mid-range area,” Lalanne said. “On dribble moves, making all my moves quicker. We worked on hook shots and all that, how to get positioning and the right spacing with players.”
Roe believes the biggest change for Lalanne is his patience, especially when he receives the ball in the block. Lalanne’s instinct to stand up in the post disrupted his post work a year ago. Now, he has to “sit in the chair.”
“Last year, he received the ball a lot of times in situations where he didn’t have balance,” Roe said. “The key to balance is being low and having a low stance and you can do everything from being in a low position.”
Lalanne’s ability to lead, despite it not being a natural instinct, is evident this season as well.
“He’s also become one of the premier leaders on the team by being a little bit more focal because he’s a shy, drawn back kid,” Roe said. “A very nice kid, but he’s understanding if he wants to be one of the best players in the country and looked at as a leader, he wants to be more vocal with his teammates.”
The landscape of basketball, especially in the college level, is changing.
The game’s moving away from the traditional frontcourt, adding more guard-oriented offenses because of the increased speed and mismatches. Lalanne’s cognizant of the changes.
“Centers nowadays are knocking down jump shots, some of them are knocking down threes,” he said. “I feel like the game’s just evolving more and players are evolving too.”
While Roe cautions the team would rather see Lalanne working close to the basket, the versatility the 6-foot-10 center possesses adds yet another weapon.
“He’s sort of like a hybrid we call it, he can do everything,” Roe said. “He’s one of the euro-tradition kinda guys where he can shoot the outside shot.”
In addition to Williams, the Minutemen have Derrick Gordon and Trey Davis vying for minutes at the guard position with versatile wings in Raphiael Putney, Sampson Carter and Maxie Esho. Kellogg has the flexibility to run smaller, quicker lineups.
That’s no problem for Lalanne.
“It gets me excited seeing a fast-break or a dunk here and after that seeing me run down the floor and going over the defense and laying it up, quick hitters,” he said. “A fast system to me is more exciting, you have a lot more fun. You play a lot looser, it’s a lot better.”
For Lalanne, the opportunities and potential are endless. He believes he’s the best big man in the Atlantic 10. His mentor isn’t far behind.
“I have no doubt he would be the best big man in the A-10,” Roe said. “It’s just up to him if he wants to do that. He has all the tools.
“We say to our young guys, you have a full tool belt to go to construction, it’s up to you how big you want your palace to be. Go to work and use those hammers and saws.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.