Cady Lalanne: From being fresh off the boat to winning in Kuwait
KUWAIT CITY (Kuwait) - Cady Lalanne stared out of the balcony of his hotel room out into the open.
Here he was in Kuwait, playing in a second season for the defending WASL-Gulf champions Kuwait Club. This stint is another chapter of his illustrious professional career that has spanned all over the world from Spain, Italy, Puerto Rico, Turkiye, China, and Korea.
"I TAKE IT ONE GAME AT A TIME AND JUST ENJOY THE MOMENT BECAUSE THE MOST IMPORTANT GIFT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW IS BEING ON THIS PLANET IN LIFE."
It's been quite an adventure for the 31-year-old.
As Lalanne was looking out at the view outside, he couldn't help but think about that first journey he ventured on - a 1,500-kilometer boat ride headed to the USA from Haiti.
"My life has been very interesting and crazy, it's funny because [I was] just thinking about coming from Haiti and all the way here right now," he said.
Lalanne thinks about that boat ride all the time and those memories pop up in his head every now and then in quiet moments, just like this one moment where he is pondering about his past.
"I remember when we pulled up to the shore. We were hiding in bushes, seeing cars pass by. We were picked up by a guy in a truck and we were here. In America," he had told the San Antonio Spurs back in 2015.
He didn't start playing basketball until he was 14, but once he did, he began overcoming the odds.
Lalanne became the first in his family to graduate from high school and then went on to go to the University of Massachusetts. He shined throughout his four years there, ending as one of three players in school history to record at least 1000 points, 800 rebounds, and 100 blocks.
In 2015, he earned a spot on the Third Team of the All-Atlantic 10, became the first member of his family to graduate from college, and later heard his name on NBA Draft night as the 55th pick in the second round to the San Antonio Spurs.
His mother, Bertha, who had done everything she could to give her children the best opportunity to succeed, was happy about all of those accomplishments, but one a little but more happier than the other.
"When I was drafted, she was happy. But she wasn't as excited as when I graduated. She put on my cap and gown and started cheering," Lalanne told San Antonio Express News at the time.
From there, Lalanne embarked on an exciting career that has led him to this moment in his hotel room, early in the start of another WASL-Gulf season where he cooly recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds in a season-opening win for Kuwait Club over Muharraq.
"Not too many people get to be in my shoes and do this so that's why every game I come out and play as hard as I can," he said. "I take it one game at a time and just enjoy the moment because the most important gift we have right now is being on this planet in life.
"Coming from Haiti - the stuff in Haiti is not easy. We're going through a war right now and it's just a struggle in Haiti," he added.
Lalanne left Haiti with his family to the USA ever since he was 7, but he also had to return for a legal process before going to college.
As per NBA.com, "he stayed with a pastor in a land he hardly knew and didn't touch a basketball" and "the six months in Haiti changed him, as he lived in an area that didn't always have electricity or running water".
"There were times we thought I might not be able to come back to the country," Lalanne also told NBA.com in 2015. "It was an eye-opening experience. After something like that, you don't take anything for granted."
Even to this day, 8 years later, he maintains that mindset in approaching life.
"Just being in Kuwait in the Middle East, just playing basketball at a high level is a blessing in disguise and I thank god every day for it."
Aside from being pretty good at basketball, you have to be adaptable to different situations to have a career like Lalanne has had and that's exactly what he's done through his ventures.
"I adjust pretty quick everywhere I go because I just embrace the culture," Cady revealed. "I don't come in thinking just one way. When I came to the Middle East, I came in and opened up and figured out what was good food to eat, how the people are, what they like, and what they don't like. When I was in [China and Korea], it was the same thing.
"I come in, I try to really adapt to the culture because every place is different. American culture, Middle Eastern culture, [East Asian] culture, wherever I am in the world, I come in with an open mind. I adjust to it trying to understand it.
"That's been a great part of my career and I love it. Even my family does the same thing. They try different foods, even when we go back to America. We even try to find a Middle Eastern restaurant or an Asian restaurant to go eat at so it's been really great."
The way that the 2.08M (6'10") center speaks about it makes it look easy, jumping from country to country, logging double-doubles, and playing sturdy defense. But it's not everyone who can go through all of the ups and downs and still keep calm and collected.
Fortunately, the hurdles that Lalanne had to go through earlier in his life gave him the perspective that allowed him to strive in tough situations.
"[What I went through earlier in life] helps me to stay calm in certain environments when things go crazy. Being able to keep a level head and then also just going through adversity - I went through so much adversity at such a young age that nothing really shakes me anymore. Nothing really scares me that much.
"Even my wife always tells me all the time, 'You're so calm, you're so patient with everything'. But when you're younger and you see so much stuff as a kid, you learn to take one moment at a time, breathe, think about it, and make a decision.
"That's what's helped me a lot in my career, to get to the point where I'm at today. Every team I'm on, I approach it the same way by trying to make as many friends as I can, trying to build more family bonds, and it's been great."
His current team, Kuwait Club, can certainly back him up on that claim. It's been so great between Lalanne and Kuwait Club that he has returned for a second season.
The raw numbers are great. In WASL-Gulf, he averaged 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game making him the only player to average at least 20-10 in both categories through the season. He also shot 57.6 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from the three-point line, and 73.3 percent from the free-throw line - the only player to shoot at least 50-40-70. More importantly, Kuwait Club went undefeated to win the WASL-Gulf title.
They nearly stayed undefeated to win WASL Final 8 where Lalanne averaged 16.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest, losing their only game of the campaign to Manama in the Final. Then again, that loss should also lit a fire in the hearts of Lalanne and Kuwait Club going into this 2023/2024 season.
"Feels like last year we fell a bit short," Lalanne admits. "We should have won it all but Manama came out and surprised us.
"This year we’re coming with a vengeance, trying to win it all, and taking every game seriously and win the whole thing."
"We play hard, every game we come out and we compete at the highest level and every minute on the floor we try to play hard.
"I feel optimistic about the season, I feel like as long as we come and do our job and keep playing hard and take every game seriously one game at a time, we’ll finish the season the right way with a championship."
It's a long road in WASL-Gulf and, potentially, WASL Final 8, from now until that championship should Kuwait Club make it there.
But Lalanne has been through enough tough journeys to know he has what it takes to go all the way with this team.