There are only 3 weeks left for the college kids to impress the scouts before the NBA Draft takes place on June 21st. We will spend that time talking to the stars of tomorrow as they prepare for the next phases of their careers. Riley LaChance started the very 1st game of his career in Nashville as a freshman and finished 135 games later with the 6th-most AST in school history . HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Riley about playing in the NCAA tourney, making a buzzer-beater, and what it would mean to get drafted.
You grew up in Wisconsin: were you most attracted to Vanderbilt’s academics/athletics/both/other? The combination of athletics/academics attracted me to Vanderbilt. The ability to earn a degree from a top-15 university and play in 1 of the best conferences in America was something I could not pass up.
You played for a pair of coaches in Kevin Stallings/Bryce Drew: how difficult was the transition from 1 to the other, and what is the most important thing that you learned from either of them? Coach Stallings leaving was obviously difficult and something that I never would have expected when choosing Vanderbilt, but Coach Drew made the transition super-easy for us. He accepted us and treated us like his players from Day 1 and his staff made us feel comfortable and at home just as much as we felt before. The most important thing I learned from Coach Drew is that there is more to life than basketball. Obviously basketball is a huge part of our lives, but its important to not let the results of a basketball game affect the other facets of your life like relationships/family/school. The most important thing I learned from Coach Stallings is that every possession matters. He ingrained in me the importance of not taking any plays off. He also emphasized that just like every possession in basketball matters, every decision in your life matters as well.
In 2015 you started all 35 games and were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I had a great group of coaches/teammates who believed in me right from the start. Due to some unforeseen circumstances the year prior, all of the incoming freshman had a great opportunity to come in and play right away. I think that the biggest key for me that year was that I was not thinking too much. I tried not to listen to too much outside noise and just tried to play the same way that I did in high school.
In 2017 you made the SEC All-Tournament team: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most? I have always been a person who dreams about the big moments. I think that I was so motivated from the way that our 2 previous SEC tournaments had played out that I wanted to do everything in my power to give us a chance to advance in that tournament. We also had an incredible showing from our fans at the tournament who definitely willed us to win the 2 games we did.
In the 2017 NCAA tourney you scored 12 PTS but Matthew Fisher-Davis intentionally fouled Bryant McIntosh with 14.6 seconds left in a 2-PT win by Northwestern (the 1st NCAA tourney victory in Wildcat history: what was your reaction when you saw the foul, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward? The feeling in the locker room afterward was obviously 1 of sadness and shock that the season was over. None of us were ready to be done playing but none of were putting the blame on Matt. He had 1 of his best games of the year and brought us back from a huge deficit. That game would not have been even close without him.
Last November you scored a career-high 27 PTS in a win over Radford: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? Yes: once I got it going the hoop felt like it got wider!
On Valentine’s Day 2018 you scored 16 PTS including a 3-PT shot at the buzzer in a 1-PT upset of Mississippi State: did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the highlights of your career? The shot felt good coming off of my hand. The defender bumped me a little from behind and made me move forward a little so I was just hoping that I got both feet behind the line. It was definitely 1 of the top moments of my career.
You graduated in the top-15 of the school’s all-time career lists for PTS/AST/3PM: how were you able to balance your scoring with your passing with your shooting? I think that both coaching staffs trusted me with the ball in my hands. Being able to play both point guard and shooting guard led to me scoring/assisting at a high rate.
Several SEC players are projected to be taken in this year’s lottery (Michael Porter Jr./Collin Sexton/Kevin Knox/Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Robert Williams): which 1 impressed you the most? Michael Porter Jr. did not play against us so I cannot really judge him. Collin Sexton was probably the most impressive: his speed and strength are definitely ready for the next level. I will also say that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s feel for the game and his ability to get to his spots make him 1 of the toughest players in the draft to guard: I think that he will be a steal for someone.
What would it mean to you to get drafted? Obviously getting drafted would mean the world to me, but if not then I plan to go overseas and play professional basketball somewhere in Europe.