Esho and Lalanne ready for one final show at Mullins Center

By Andrew Cyr

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(Stephanie Berenson/Daily Collegian)

(Stephanie Berenson/Daily Collegian)

There are two players on the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s roster which stand out above the rest in terms of ability to erupt a crowd and change the pace of a game with the blink of an eye.

So it’s only fitting that the pair – Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho – are playing in their final home game together Wednesday night against Richmond on Senior Night.

The two came through the program together five years ago prior to the 2010-11 season and have both been key contributors in helping UMass make a name for itself again.

Whether it was key plays each made during the team’s NCAA tournament run last season, or making ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays with emphatic dunks, both Esho and Lalanne have made their share of contributions to the Minutemen over the last four years.

­            “It sneaks up on you fast. It’s even surreal leading up to it. It came up on us kind of quick but they’ve meant a lot to our program and they’ve done some really great things here,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

“It’s been a long time. They’ve spent about 20 percent of their life here. Just watching those guys go from being skinny, athletic guys on the recruiting trail to growing into men is something special for a coach.”

The pair have started every game this season for the Minutemen and Esho (11.6 points per game) and Lalanne (11.5) are the top leading scorers respectively. Lalanne was also a starter on last year’s tournament team while Esho was a key member off the bench, appearing in all 32 games and making his lone start in the second-round game against Tennessee.

But when the two were both asked to reflect on their time at UMass, they each had a similar message – the journey went by in the blink of an eye.

“Yeah it really is kind of weird,” Lalanne said when asked about how fast his career went by. “Me and Maxie actually talked after the game on Saturday and it just feels like we got here the other day. It feels kind of weird but it’s been a fun ride.”

“It doesn’t seem like a long time because it went by so fast. I know I’ve been here for a while but I think when you are enjoying yourself a long time can go by like that,” Esho said.

Both Esho and Lalanne’s friendship goes well beyond the basketball court. The two have been close over their five years together and both plan to keep in contact well after their tenures are done at UMass.

And while the two have been through the ups and the downs together, embarking on their journeys together is something the two pride their relationship on.

“It’s been really nice. Me and him came together and we are now leaving together. Some other guys game with us and we’ve seen a lot of people leave,” Esho said. “You can say it’s been a journey we’ve been on together since we’ve been here and it’s been really nice. I don’t think I’d want to pick another player to do that with.”

Esho and Lalanne’s families will be in attendance at Mullins Center for the first time in their careers. Esho’s family is making the trip from Washington D.C., while Lalanne’s mother and sisters are making the trip up from Orlando, Florida.

Esho currently sits at 991 career points and doing so on Senior Night is something that would make it a night to remember – Lalanne also hit the 1,000-point club early this season on Feb. 4 against Fordham. However, Esho is still trying to remain focused on the task at hand.

“That would be a really nice thing to do. I didn’t even know I was closing in on 1,000 points honestly,” he said. “I just want to win, so I mean getting the win would be even bigger than those nine points, but it would be really nice to get that 1,000th point.”

Both players will be honored before the game. Tip-off from Mullins Center will be at 7:30 p.m. against Richmond.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr