Catching up with Russell Lakey

RL

What have you been up to?

After College I went to Law School at Vandy, and I am currently working at a law firm in Phoenix, AZ.

Why did you choose Vanderbilt? I’m sure you had other schools pursuing you.

I chose Vandy because it offered me the best of both worlds in the sense that it had great academics and gave me the opportunity to play basketball at the highest level. When I took my visit and saw a home game versus South Carolina and there were 13,000 fans, I knew this is where I wanted to go. Where was the toughest place to play?

I would say the toughest place to play would be Kentucky. Not so much because of the fans but because their teams were extremely talented while I was there. Who was the toughest player to guard?

The toughest player I guarded was probably Troy Bell from Boston College my freshman year. Next I would have to say Anthony Roberson from Florida and then Ben Gordon from UConn.

Your junior year we had the big win over Kentucky at home. What do you remember about that one?

It was my senior year that we had the huge home win versus Kentucky, but the thing that sticks out of my mind the most is when Dan Cage hit a 3-pointer late in the second half to put us over the hump and up for the rest of the game i think, and the crowd after that shot was the loudest i had ever heard a crowd, home or away.

Also that year was the big win over Alabama at home where you knocked down some big threes late. What sticks out from that game?

Yeah, my junior year we did have a win over Alabama at home, and the thing that i remember is that Alabama had lost like the game before at Utah when they had just got the #1 ranking, and so they dropped to like #4 when they played us and I was upset because I wanted to play them when they were number 1. but i remember having to guard Mo Williams and it being a pretty tough challenge.

The 2004 SEC tournament game against Mississippi State was a classic. You guys fought all the way to overtime to beat the Top Ten Bulldogs. What sticks out from that game?

The thing I remember most about that game is that both teams played at a very high level that whole game, but we just kept fighting and were fortunate enough to come away with the win. Also, Miss St was the only team in the SEC we had never beaten while I was at Vandy, so it was nice to get that win.

What was it like waiting that Sunday afternoon when the brackets came out. We were one of the last teams announced.

Yeah, I was real nervous that whole time. As time went by and our name hadn’t been called, I kept running through our teams resume in my head thinking about all the reasons why we should definitely be in, and why a person on the selection committee might not choose us to go to the tournament. But I can’t describe the feeling when they finally called our name and began celebrating with my teammates. I will always remember that day and moment.

What were your thoughts going into the Western Michigan game? It seems the experts picked us to lose.

Going into the game against Western Michigan it was the same process as any other game, just practice, going through the scouting report, etc. But it did seem like a lot of experts picked Western Michigan, but I didn’t really pay any attention to it because what experts thought/think doesn’t have any impact on the game, plus I was just excited to be in the tournament for the first time and I just wanted to get on practice court to prepare for the game and then head to Orlando. Unfortunately I got food poisoning before the game, I thought it was nerves but then I felt worse after the game and the next day, but I lived.

The game against NC State was just amazing.

What do you remember being down by double digits with four minutes to go in the biggest game of your career?

Being down 11 with a little less than 3 minutes, i knew we had an uphill battle, but our coaching staff at the end of practice puts us in end of game situations which I think really prepared us for that moment. And while it was not the exact same situation, the coaches had put us in enough situations in practice which seemed impossible, but with their strategy and when we executed, we were able to be successful. But a lot of things went right for us, with Freije getting fouled on the 3s, making a 3 and hitting all of his fts, and then the 5 point possession with Corey’s fts and Mario’s 3. But we just kept believing and fighting to the end and we were fortunate enough to come away with the win.

What are your thoughts on the UConn game?

I know they had a few NBA lottery picks on that team and it seemed like we got off to a slow start and Freijie was double teamed most of the night.

Once again, going into the UConn game I just approached it pretty much just like another game. And while the stakes are higher, its the same game just with a different opponent (even though they were definitely the most talented team we played that year). But I had such confidence and belief in my teammates and our coaches and our scheme, I had no doubt that we were going to win. Unfortunately we weren’t able to execute at the level like we were used to, some of that might have been to do with their talent, but I just think we had an off day, and sometimes that just happens.

What do you think about this years team?

I think this years team has made great strides recently, especially with the 2 recent big wins against South Carolina and at LSU. I hope they can carry their momentum into the SEC tourney and go on a little run. I remember my freshman year when we had a lot of injuries and one game we had to start 4 freshmen, looking back it doesn’t seem our team had an identity, and I think this team may’ve struggled with that with having so many freshman playing major roles and the injuries and players they had out in the beginning of the year. But now they have had almost a full year playing with each other, and with AJ healthy and Beal playing at an All-SEC level, I think they are now finding their identity, and you can see that with the recent success they’ve had. But the SEC tournament should be interesting, because I think this team has as good of a shot at winning the SEC tournament as any Vandy team we’ve had in recent years (taking into account the SEC is down a little this year.)