The Big Smooth

Jan. 24, 2002

by Mason Kelley

At any Husky women's basketball game, one can't help but notice the silky smooth outside touch of Husky center Andrea Lalum, a deadly jumper reminiscent of former Seattle Sonics center Sam Perkins.

Outside shooting is not something that a team typically expects from their center, but Lalum has always been one to go against the grain. An eighth-grade coach once told Lalum that post players are not supposed to shoot outside.

'That made me want to shoot outside even more,' the 6-foot-4 sophomore says. 'In practice and warm-ups I would shoot outside just to make her mad. I made the decision early on that I was going to develop and outside shot and I did. I have always been the type of person that tries to do things that people tell me I can't.'

Lalum's fighting spirit comes from her mother Gaylene, who is currently back at the family's home in Bozeman, Mont. battling Hodgkin's disease and has to endure rigorous chemotherapy sessions. The pair share their experiences and are making their way through life's hurdles together.

'This experience has given me strength,' Lalum says. 'I look at it as something to fight for. We fight for each other and we depend on each other.'

Being away from home during this trying time has been hard for Lalum, but she has stayed positive.

'I didn't get to spend the holidays with my family because of basketball and because my mom was too ill to come out here. It was definitely a reality check for us but it didn't affect my family in a negative way,' she says. 'We have really come together as a family and we rely on each other more than ever. You have to when you are that far away from one another.'

Despite the distance, Gaylene listens to all of the games on the radio and watches every game that is on T.V. She has been unable to make it to a Pac-10 game yet this year, but Lalum always knows that her mother is with her.

'We talk almost everyday and she is with me in my heart. I know that she would be here if she could and I have had to accept that,' she says. 'It only makes us better people. It makes her so much stronger and it gives me something to fight for besides the Pac-10 championship.'

Gaylene and Andrea are going through two very different experiences right now, but both are fighting for each other.

'We are so different but yet so similar, because we are both fighting for something and we talk through all of our struggles,' Lalum says. 'I know how hard her days are when she has chemo, and she knows how hard my days are when we have tough practices.'Lalum did not start playing basketball until she was in seventh grade but by the time she reached high school she was ready to shine.

'I didn't start playing until I was older. I have never been to a camp in my life. I just played in a few tournaments here and there,' Lalum says. 'I grew up on a farm so I didn't have any posters of Michael Jordan on the wall. I never planned on playing in college or going pro. I just happened to have some talent.'

That talent led Lalum all the way to the 2001 NCAA Elite Eight, where she started at center for Washington against Southwest Missouri State as a freshman. Lalum averaged 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, and was a major force with 18 points in the Huskies' Sweet 16 win against third-seeded Oklahoma.

Playing in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman was an unforgettable experience, one that Lalum plans to use to better herself as a basketball player and a person.

'It was definitely a confidence booster. It gave me some experience and wisdom at a young age,' Lalum says. 'It was hard to go from high school to the NCAA Tournament, but it was good for me and I think I performed well.'

Lalum followed up her breakout freshman season with a bit of a slump to open 2001-02. Lately, however, she has found her stride and increased her averages to 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

'I think it definitely had to do with the loss of (former Husky forward) LeAnn Sheets,' Lalum says. 'The only returner I had was Kellie O'Neill. It was hard to get familiar with the new style of play and the new girls. We have a totally different team and a totally different game plan. This year it's all new.'

Lalum's biggest adjustment has been to her role as more of a pure post player. Last year, the presence of Sheets and forwards Melissa Erickson and Carli Halpenny, who each finished their careers in 2001, allowed Lalum to move outside and utilize her long-range jumper. This year, with smaller players such as Emily Autrey and Loree Payne at forward, Lalum has had to commit herself to becoming a stronger force inside.

Now that Lalum has settled in to her role, she is playing well and has become a team leader in only her sophomore season.

'I definitely try to do the best I can for the team,' she says. 'It is kind of awkward being a team leader as a sophomore. I look at it as a positive because after this year I have two more left. I didn't want to wait until my senior season to take on a leadership role.'

Lalum has endured much in just two seasons of college basketball, and she will certainly experience more in the next two. What has remained constant, however, and something that will remain important, is her teammates.

'I have really had to depend on my teammates,' she says. 'When it comes to game time, they are the ones who are out there with you and they are the ones that make the experience what it is.'

When moving through life, all one can ask for is to have no regrets. If there is one lesson that Lalum has learned, it is that every second counts. She is using the time she has to get the most out of both her family and basketball.

'You never want to have regrets, wishing you would have done something,' she says. 'Time is flying by, I can't believe I'm a sophomore. It seems like only yesterday I was in high school and before you know it this opportunity will be gone, so I am going to make the most of the time I have left.'

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