B rendan Lane has a 4-inch gash below his right eye, and he’s proud of it.
Lane, a 6-foot-9 power forward for Pepperdine, revels in how he suddenly took on a battered look, much like a boxer.
Earlier this season, Lane was struck by an inadvertent elbow while setting a screen. He staggered to the three-point line, seeing stars and blood coming down his cheek, and got the ball as the shot clock was winding down. Yes, he made the shot.
The sharp elbow was from a teammate, giving new meaning to friendly fire.
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“Oh, yeah,” Lane said recently, a grin creasing his face. “And then I had to get 10 stitches right away. And then went back in the game.”
As painful as that injury was, it pales in comparison to Lane’s initial college basketball experience.
Lane, The Bee’s 2009 Player of the Year from Rocklin High School, went to UCLA as a national recruit. There was team infighting and program unrest. Some players were suspended; others transferred out. Coach Ben Howland eventually lost his job.
Lane, always a top student, graduated from UCLA in three years with a degree in economics. But his playing experiences left him less than satisfied. He appeared in 79 games, starting eight, and averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11.4 minutes over three seasons.
“UCLA was really disappointing, basketball-wise, for me,” Lane said. “I had some good and bad experiences. For the first time, basketball wasn’t enjoyable, and at some points, I thought I was done with the sport.
“But once I transferred to Pepperdine, I got the love back for the game, and I’m happy. Really happy.”
Lane, averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks entering tonight’s home finale against Santa Clara, was named to the West Coast Conference All-Academic Team. The WCC tournament starts March 8 for the Waves (15-14).
Lane has been known for his offensive skills, but he said he’s pleased with his defensive progress. He leads the WCC in blocked shots and has at least one in 17 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in program history.
“I’ve worked hard, but you can always get better, and I want to get better,” Lane said.
Lane was eligible to compete for Pepperdine last season because he had graduated from UCLA, but he chose to take a season off to recharge. He said he entered this season refreshed and ready.
“Taking some time off was good for me,” Lane said.
Lane is in the Pepperdine master’s program of applied finance and living in a house with five roommates in Malibu. As a senior statesman of sorts, Lane, 23, mentors younger players.
“Brendan’s been terrific for us,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. “He needed a fresh start. You want players to enjoy this time of their lives, and he has. He’s been a joy. He talks to players about college, what to expect, what you can get out of it, how to deal with adversity. The guys listen. They know he’s been through a lot.”
Said assistant coach Bryant Moore, a former Sheldon High assistant: “Oh, you can see it in how Brendan plays that he’s rediscovered his game. And he’ll only get better. He has skills. He has a big body. I think he’ll be playing this game for a while.”
Lane said he will consider playing professionally overseas. He continues to improve his inside game – footwork, power moves, posting up – to go with his range. Basketball already has taken him around the world, including trips to Africa, China, France and Germany when he was with travel teams in high school. He’s up for more travel.
“It’s really exciting to think about the rest of this season, how far we can go, and next year where I might be,” Lane said. “I could be anywhere in the world. I’m ready.”