Men's Sports Sports

How Casey Lane used his setbacks to develop irreplaceable life lessons

By Garrett Cote

Just over three years ago, first-year Collin Lindsay planned on trying out for the men’s basketball team. He wasn’t close, yet, with anyone at Springfield College – but all of that was about to change on one fateful day he chose to shoot around on a hoop in Dana Gymnasium. 

Fellow first years – and recruits already on the men’s basketball team – Casey Lane and Daryl Costa strolled in and asked Lindsay to join them for a workout. Lindsay, perhaps making assumptions based on Lane’s 6’0 stature, asked him if he could dunk.

In response, Lane tossed a ball off the wall behind one of the hoops and timed his jump perfectly as it ricocheted towards him. He soared through the air and dipped the ball below his waist before slamming down an emphatic windmill dunk. And with that, Lindsay had the answer to his question. 

Not only could Casey Lane dunk, but he could also shoot the lights out. And he was the future of the Springfield College men’s basketball team.

“I remember it perfectly, he just walked up to me and asked if I was trying out,” Lindsay said of Lane. 

“It was cool of him to walk up to me and invite me to play because I was a walk-on. This kid was athletic as hell. He was a beast. After playing with him, I was like, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ He was that good.”

After getting settled into practice and finding his place on the team for the first month and a half, Lane was in a groove. He wasn’t playing a whole lot of minutes but he felt comfortable and confident as a member of the Pride. He was eager to earn a consistent role following winter break and acknowledged he had to stand out in practice to do so.

About 10 minutes into that first practice of intercession, he was split into a group with Jake Ross and Heath Post to perform a drill focused on defensive closeouts and driving to the basket. When Lane got the ball, he ripped through, drove baseline and came to a jump stop – a routine play he’s made a thousand times over the course of his career. Only, this time, his legs didn’t cooperate, and an odd POP sound accompanied his jump stop.

“I thought I landed fine, but my knee stayed where it was and my leg went out – and there was a pretty good POP. Jake (Ross) heard it because he was right there, and we both kind of knew something was up,” Lane said.

A few days later, following a handful of tests and an MRI, Lane was diagnosed with a torn ACL that required surgery and caused him to miss the remainder of the season. 

The feelings of devastation, frustration and anger all circulated throughout his body. But self-pity was never an option.

Long, intensive rehab followed. The process was to take about a year to fully recover. But after only five days post-surgery, Lane was walking again.

“It was awesome to see I had already made baby steps really early,” he said. “It was a new challenge to take on and I loved it. A lot of people would say it’s a crappy thing, but tough things only happen to people who are tough enough to handle them. I was one of those people, and this was something I was supposed to overcome.”

Although the majority of athletes take roughly 12 months to overcome a torn ACL, Lane took 16. Physically, he was ready by month 10. But to trust himself to move the same way he once did is what added time. To help with that he had his younger sister, Brooke, who was training for a big track-and-field event at the time, document his recovery process to see the significant improvements he was making.

“We did a ton of training together,” Brooke said. “At the time he was recovering I was training super hard. This was also during quarantine so nobody was really doing anything, so we were running and [working on ourselves]. We ended up doing a bunch of workouts on a turf field down the road from our house and I recorded them so he could see his progress and his range of motion. It was big for him to realize and see that he was getting better.”

Support from his family throughout the entire ACL rehabilitation was encouraging for Lane, and having people who care constantly checking in on him made it even easier. His father Stephen, mother Tiffany, older brother Tyler and Brooke never allowed the injury to affect their family dynamic. If Casey wasn’t going to let it get to him, they were to follow.

“They didn’t let it interfere with who I was as a person,” Lane said. “I wasn’t letting much of it bother me, so they weren’t going to let it bother them. We’re a sport-oriented family, but if it didn’t need to be brought up that I wasn’t playing, it wasn’t going to be brought up. They all supported me in different ways and had unique ways of showing it.”

Without his beaming personality and outgoingness in his Wilton, New Hampshire home during the school year, things are a bit empty in the Lane household. 

“Overall, it’s a different atmosphere around him,” Brooke said of her big brother. “When he’s home, our family is in a whole different place – laughing, joking and playing games. That’s just kind of what he brings. Without him, it’s kind of a bummer around the house. He’s just a great kid.”

With rehab halting his ability to suit up in his sophomore campaign and COVID-19 shutting down his entire junior year, Lane had academically completed three full years on Alden Street while playing in just four games. 

As the time came for the start of his senior season (2021-2022), he felt the healthiest he had been since high school.

“This year, we came up on the first couple weeks of school, and I felt like the best version of myself I had ever been,” Lane said. “Mentally I was ready to go and I was playing so well leading up to the season.”

On Nov. 17, Lane posted a career-high 13 points in 27 minutes of game action, the most minutes he had ever seen playing for Springfield. He was finally over the hump, and the light was bright at the end of the tunnel. Every struggle, internal and external, was just a moment in time and he could finally move past it.

However, three days later when the Pride traveled to Keene State for their yearly matchup with the Owls, Lane came down awkwardly and rolled his ankle – an ankle he had already sprained in the past and had been wearing a brace on for every game and practice. Afraid to get it looked at knowing he would have to miss more time, Lane kept quiet and continued to play through it.

“I kind of saw a difference in his play after the ankle injury,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Brock. “He wasn’t reacting with the speed that was typical for him and it was a product of his ankle not functioning properly.”

The more he tried playing on it, the more discomfort came with it. He needed to get this ankle checked out, so he did. The MRI came back and showed two fractures in two different spots in his ankle – an injury that required a two month recovery. Again, instead of self-pity, Lane came to practice everyday and provided a positive voice on the sidelines.

“This year especially, because of the injury, he’s been like another coach,” Lindsay said of Lane. “He’s always telling me things. Him not being able to play all the time has led him to be more vocal. His IQ of the game is incredible.”

Presently, on a Feb. 7 Monday afternoon around lunchtime – which has most people a combination of sluggish and tired, hungry and grumpy and drained of any vibrancy as yet another week is kick-started by the most dreadful of the seven days – a typically calm Blake Arena at this time isn’t so calm. 

A ball is bouncing. A JBL Charge speaker is set underneath the far basket blasting songs by Drake. And a figure dressed in all black with two gold chains – one holding a pendant of a cross – wearing black, red and white Damian Lillard shoes is darting from one side of the floor to the other, knocking down shots from behind the arc one after another, as if Lillard himself was the one shooting.

Only it wasn’t. It was Lane putting in extra work knowing later that day would be the first time he took the court for practice in over two months. 

“His story and the way he’s dealt with everything is just so inspirational to people,” said Ben Kistner, assistant coach for the Pride. “He comes to play every single day with the same purpose and passion. There aren’t a lot of days where you see him down, he keeps his energy high, and that’s what I love about him. He comes to practice everyday as if he never had an injury in the first place.”

On top of Lane being a standout character, he can flat out hoop – he just hasn’t had the chance to show it. 

“He’s got some skills and he’s got a lot of talent,” Brock said. “He brings intensity everyday, but it’s never about him. He always puts the team first and that’s huge. It’s a shame he’s dealt with so many setbacks.”

Whether Lane chooses to use his remaining eligibility to come back next year and give it one final shot at basketball, or he moves on from playing and tries his hand at coaching, he will bring his perseverance and willingness to overcome any circumstance with him.

“He knows a lot about the game, and it’s going to help him to one day be a phenomenal coach,” Lindsay said. “Just his mentality and everything he’s been through. A big thing about a coach is being able to relate to your players, and any players that go through a hardship he’s going to be able to relate to them. I just know he’s going to be successful because of what he’s gone through.”

Even if Lane were to never play another second of competitive basketball at the collegiate level, it wouldn’t matter to him. He has accomplished everything through his personal battles with each injury he’s had. 

“You’d think everyone who has gone through a serious injury would say it stinks,” Lane said. “But I grew so much as a person. I was personally impressed with myself, and it gave me a whole new idea of how tough I was. This is stuff I’m going to take with me throughout my life when, if, basketball and I ever separate.”

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