Lane just needs to Phil out a bit

February 13, 1997


Albany (N.Y.) Times Union

ALBANY, N.Y. - If he ever wants for motivation, the wispish young man with the smooth, mocha cheeks need look no further than page 25 of the 1996-97 Manhattan College men's basketball media guide.

There, to the left of a thumb-print-sized picture of his face, Phil Lane will see these words: "Players are made when no one is looking."

They shouldn't be hard for Lane to remember. He uttered them.

"I know the weightroom's gonna be my best friend this summer," Lane, a graduate of St. Maria Goretti, said the other night.


Lane, an 18-year-old freshman point guard at Manhattan, is generously listed at 5-feet-10, 150 pounds. It is not a body built for the rigors of Division I college basketball, where physical contact is as much a part of the game as spring-loaded coaches.

"He's got to get stronger, but all freshmen do," said senior Tarik Thacker, who starts alongside Lane in the Manhattan backcourt. "Next year's going to be much easier for him. I guarantee, next year he's going to be a better player."

Lane started 17 of Manhattan's 21 games through Monday, including a 65-64 victory that night over Siena in Albany. He is playing an average of 19 minutes a game, low for a starter, but more than respectable for a freshman. He had seven points, a rebound and two steals in 19 minutes against Siena, including a four-point spurt that tied the game at 50 midway through the second half.

The Jaspers are 9-13 overall, 5-6 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. They are a dangerous team heading into the conference tournament in Buffalo, having won five of eight games after a stretch in which they lost nine of 10.

Lane created a brief moment of comic relief in the second half against Siena. Having fidgeted with his baggy, kelly green shorts throughout the game, tucking and retucking his jersey and the T-shirt underneath, Lane took a seat at the end of the bench, stripped to his skivvies and quickly hoisted up a new, smaller pair of uniform shorts.

It's not the only adjustment he's had to make. A star at Goretti, where he averaged 17.1 points and was an All-Area selection, Lane has struggled mightily to find his shooting stroke at Manhattan. Through Monday night, he was making under 30 percent of his shots from the field and averaging 3.7 points a game. He was second on the team in assists, with 55.

"I said to myself a couple days ago that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I've got to step it up," said Lane, known to his coach, teammates and arena public address announcers as Boo. He assessed his play to this point as "average. Nothing too spectacular, nothing too bad, but average."

His coach John Leonard agreed.

"Typical freshman," he said, ticking off the good (court sense, a feel for what the team needs and how to run it) and the bad (poor decisions, haste, trying to do too much).

Still, Leonard said, "I feel very comfortable with Boo. I'm very happy with him. He wouldn't be starting as a point guard on this team if I didn't think the world of him."

Lane has learned, sometimes the hard way, to tone down the open-court flair that is common in prep stars trying to leave footprints at a higher level of competition.

"Being a point guard is more mental than physical," said Thacker, whose broken wrist created an opportunity for Lane at the point. "You've got to think the game and you've go to play the game."

Lane, who plans to major in physical therapy, said he's happy at Manhattan, even if he sees the inside of a classroom, a dorm room and the gym much more than he sees the city. "I wouldn't change it for the world," he said.

But he sees the need to change his body composition, and said he's ready to do what's necessary. Just like his own words in the media guide.

"This is the biggest summer for him, because he's got the opportunity," Leonard said. "This summer's just go to be his growth spurt. He'll be in (the weight room) every day, I know it. I won't have to push him. But I will."

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