Lalanne molding into shape

By Stephen Hewitt

Through eight games, Cady Lalanne is slowly showing why he was named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Rookie Team.

The 6-foot-9, 250 pound freshman – who leads the team in rebounds per game – hasn’t started a game yet this season, but his recent play off the bench may force coach Derek Kellogg to think about inserting him in the starting five, if not more minutes in the rotation, soon.

Erica Baptiste/Collegian

In Wednesday night’s blowout win over Towson, Lalanne had one of his most impressive games to date. He scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had six blocks in 28 minutes of play – the most he’s seen in any game this season.

“He’s starting to come along slowly,” said Kellogg. “He should be a guy that gets double-digit points and double-digit rebounds every night.”

UMass didn’t face many challenges in its rout of the Tigers, but one problem it did face was stopping senior center Robert Nwankwo. The big man dominated the glass in the first half, pulling down 11 rebounds – eight offensive – in addition to his 15 points heading into halftime.

But after Sean Carter was whistled with a flagrant foul less than two minutes into the second half, Kellogg subbed in Lalanne. From that point forward, the freshman dominated inside and successfully neutralized Nwankwo, controlling him to just one point and three rebounds the rest of the game.

“When we inserted him, I thought that we kind of put the game away, using his size and defensive presence,” said Kellogg.

The amount of minutes Lalanne played on Wednesday night may be a byproduct of the absence of Sampson Carter from the lineup.

According to Kellogg, the junior forward missed the game with a muscle tear in his hip, and he could require surgery if he doesn’t heal fast enough. Carter – who is still eligible for a medical redshirt – has been a surprise presence off the bench so far, averaging 8.6 points per game.

Whatever the case may be with Carter’s return, it opens some playing time for the foreseeable future, and although Lalanne is more of an inside presence than Carter, the injury could benefit Lalanne’s playing time, especially if he keeps improving.

“The only reason why he doesn’t have 10, 12 or 15 rebounds in the [Towson] game [is because] he’s still going up with one hand and he’s not going after balls like guys that have been around,” said Kellogg. “When he starts doing that, I’m not sure how high he can go.”

This Saturday’s contest at Miami (Fla.) will be a bit of a homecoming for Lalanne. The freshman grew up in Orlando, Fla. where he attended Oak Ridge High School, which is about four hours away from the Hurricanes’ campus in Coral Gables.

“I have my whole family, my high school coaches, AAU coaches, everyone coming down to the game,” said Lalanne. “I’m really excited.”

It’s no secret that the new run-and-gun offensive scheme demands quick guards and athletic wings to get out on the break, but an ingredient that the Minutemen have lacked in recent years is a dominant big man.

As he gradually settles in with the team and keeps improving with experience, Lalanne could be the defining factor to push UMass over the top.

“I feel like I’m getting a lot better because the coaches tell me the little mistakes I’m doing in the game, and my teammates help me in practice and off-the-court to help me function better,” said Lalanne. “Just getting back to playing basketball and practicing so much has got me back in shape, and I feel a lot more comfortable.”

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Hewitt.