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From Haiti to Austin: Cady Lalanne’s basketball journey

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Fresh off the boat may be an ABC sitcom to some, but to Cady Lalanne it represents just one of the hurdles he overcame on his way to the NBA.

Lalanne, who was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, has been an absolute force for Austin and a major reason for the Spurs 15-7 start to the season.

The 23-year-old out of UMass has been averaging 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game this season. Solid numbers for the big man who didn’t start playing basketball until the age of 14.

Lalanne’s averages aren’t staggering, but he has shifted his game into another gear since being named Top Prospect of the Week by our friends over at Ridiculous Upside.

In his last 10 games, Lalanne has been averaging a double-double with 15.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. And even though his shooting struggles from the free throw line have continued, he’s been shooting over 61 percent from the field in that same 10 game stretch.

Although he lacks the size of a prototypical NBA center, Lalanne’s 6’9, 242 pound frame allows him to dominate both sides of the ball in a relatively height deficient Development League. He’s also made the shift from being primarily a post player in college to your typical stretch-4.

Around the basket, Lalanne’s instincts and timing allow him to thrive on offense and defense. If he wants to succeed at the next level he’ll need to add some more size to his lower body in order to muscle around the paint, but his speed and ridiculous 7-foot-5 wingspan allow him finesse his defenders around the basket while shot blocking and rebounding at an elite level on defense.

Lalanne’s motor and work ethic are just some of the reasons why NBA and D-League executives already look at him as the best center in the Development League. But his humble beginnings keep him striving for bigger and better.

In an interview with Fox 7 Austin, Lalanne talked to John Hygh about his journey from Haiti to America at the age of seven years old.

“Coming off the boat. Having to hide in the woods. Seeing the cops pass right by. Went to car and get in. The whole time I didn’t really know what was going on,” Lalanne told Hygh. “As I think about it now. Reflecting back on it. It was eye opening. A lot of people did that trip and didn’t make it.”

Since he came to America illegally, he had to go back to Haiti to acquire legal status before he could play basketball at the University of Massachusetts on scholarship. His two week journey ended up lasting six months with no guarantee of ever coming back.

“After like the fourth month of being over there. I thought I might be over here for good. So I started adapting to the culture more. Started trying to learn more about the culture. Sixth month came by. All of a sudden my mom called me. Said we got the plane ticket. You’re coming back home,” Lalanne continued.

Once back home, Lalanne performed at a special level in four years at UMass. He became only the third player in Minuteman history to record over 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 100 blocks in his career. Lalanne also managed to showcase his durability, starting in every game his junior and senior year.

“He has unquestionable character, works hard and listens to you,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg told Spurs.com’s Lorne Chan. “I think everybody he’s ever encountered wants to help him succeed.”

But his situation and impact is slightly different in Austin. Lalanne doesn’t stand out on the box score, but he’s played in all of Austin’s 22 games this season. He doesn’t lead the team in any statistical category, but he’s near the top in every conceivable category that matters. Lalanne is in four of Austin’s five most used lineups and boasts the third highest usage rating among active Spurs. His job isn’t to go out and post a double-double every night. He’s in Austin to get better and help his teammates improve however possible. And his coaches and teammates have taken notice.

“Every time you’re around him you just realize he’s going to keep getting better and better,” Austin Spurs head coach Ken McDonald said. “He’s salt of the earth, and he just wants to get better.”

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