Lalum's Emergence Fuels Huskies' Championship Run
March 12, 2001
By Dick Rockne
Little more than two minutes remained in the biggest game of the season for the University of Washington women's basketball team.
In front of more than 6,500 nervous fans inside Bank of America Arena Feb.. 24, the Huskies had the ball and a three-point lead over Stanford. Both teams needed the victory to stay in contention for the Pac-10 Conference championship.
The Huskies were in the midst of running their half-court offense when, from inside, the ball was passed out to Andrea Lalum, who was beyond the three-point line on the left wing.
As the shot clock continued to drain, Lalum had to make a decision. She could pass the ball. She could try to attract a foul by dribbling into the key. For any other freshman, either option might have seemed more attractive than the one she chose.
Lalum, reflecting confidence far beyond her years and experience level, put up a shot.
The three-point success boosted Washington's lead to 79-73, brought the crowd even more into the game and left Lalum's Husky teammates in a state of delirium. Stanford never recovered en route to losing, 95-87.
The Huskies' shot of the year? Maybe.
But for Lalum, a Bozeman High School graduate, it was just another example of the seemingly cool, calm and collected approach she has taken in becoming a key factor in the Huskies' turn-around from the 8-22 nightmare of the 2000 season to being 19-9, a Pac-10 Conference tri-champion and a No. 6 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Lalum, who has started the past 14 games, is averaging 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds going into the Huskies' NCAA Tournament opener against Old Dominion Friday at Gainesville, Fla. She, along with teammate Giuliana Mendiola, are candidates for the all-Pac-10 freshman team.
Husky Coach June Daugherty can't say enough about Lalum, who has accomplished what she has athletically and academically (3.5 grade-point average her first quarter) while concerning herself with the condition of her mother, Gaylene, who has been battling Hodgkin's disease since December, 1999.
``The thing about Andrea I didn't know is that this kid has a great ability to grow up before your eyes,'' Daugherty said.
In about eight months, Lalum has overcome a belief that she would have to redshirt because she was out of shape to showing the kind of self confidence needed to take the decisive shot against Stanford.
Playing with confidence, she said, is something she's always had to do.
``Ever since I was younger everybody I played with, or was coached by, never thought I'd be able to do such things as shoot from outside or play with the big girls,'' Lalum said. ``When I transferred to Bozeman nobody thought I'd make it. I didn't think I'd make it either, but you just have to give it all you've got.''
Lalum began her high-school career at tiny Joplin-Inverness before transferring to Bozeman High after her sophomore season. She led the Hawks to consecutive state championships en route to being successfully recruited by Washington.
Her Husky career got off to a slow start. In part because of the time she was spending in helping her mother, she got behind in meeting the preseason conditioning requirements imposed by the Husky coaches. That led to a difficult decision: leave Bozeman and her mother two months early (last July) in favor of going to Seattle, where she could concentrate on conditioning.
``I wasn't the one who decided I should go to Seattle when I did,'' Lalum said. ``My mom and June thought it would be the best thing for me to come out here. They didn't shove me out, but they encouraged it.''
Daugherty recalled the situation.
``It was a very difficult decision for her mother to let her go and it was a very difficult decision for Andrea,'' Daugherty said. ``But both knew she had to do something.''
Out of shape, Lalum thought she would have to preserve her first year of eligibility by redshirting. Instead, she plunged into the conditioning routine that got her ready for the rigors of Division I basketball.
Still, Lalum had doubts, particularly after her first game, when she went scoreless in the Huskies' season-opener at Indiana.
``I was a step behind in everything I did,'' Lalum said. ``I was timid. I was afraid. I had one rebound, a bunch of turnovers and I didn't score. I figured my year was over.''
Instead, she hasn't been scoreless in a game since the opener.
Lalum said she expected college basketball to be a more physical game than it was in high school. But the biggest change, she said, was coming to grips with being ready emotionally for every game.
``I think that's the biggest change,'' she said. ``In high school I could show up from taking a nap, play the game and it would be fine. Here, you need to stay physically and mentally ready to play.''
Through it all, it's been fun.
``I have had a lot of fun,'' Lalum said. ``It's been an adventure every day. I've grown. I've made relationships that I'll have for a lifetime.''
She said she is looking forward to returning to Montana for the summer and being in a position to help her mother, who is recovering in a Billings hospital from a stem-cell transplant, and being around her brother, sister and father.
And maybe take a moment to think about her first season as a Husky in general and The Shot against Stanford in particular.
``I remember I had a really poor first half,'' Lalum said of the Stanford game. ``I was really disappointed in how I showed up.
``I said, `I need to settle down ... I need to play my game. I'm playing their head games. They're just trying to put me in my place. They know I'm a freshman. They know they want me to play like a freshman.'
``So I came out in the second half and just really worked hard.''
She said she hardly remembers taking The Shot.
``It was just part of our offense,'' Lalum said. ``Come over, set the screen, step back and sometimes I get a look and sometimes I don't.
``I didn't even realize it was a three-point shot.''
But you can bet everyone else _ the Cardinal, fans and Husky players _ did.
Dick Rockne retired in 2001 after 37 years as a sportswriter for the Seattle Times. He is a contributing writer for gohuskies.com