HBU’s Colter Lasher leading Last Frontier’s charge on to basketball scene

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MONDAY ON ASN: Houston Baptist at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 9 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings)

The 2008 NCAA national championship was an instant classic for many reasons. But, for Colter Lasher, then a teenage hoops fan from Anchorage, recounting the late game heroics from fellow Alaskan, Mario Chalmers, is particularly memorable.

“I saw him hit the 3-pointer against Memphis which was pretty crazy,” Lasher said, describing the iconic basket to force overtime that eventually lifted the Kansas Jayhawks to the title. “The ball was just fumbling around and he gets ahold of it and launches it.”

College basketball has seen some prominent players hail from The Last Frontier – do not forget Duke’s Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer. In reality, however, rosters are not rife with Alaskan-bred talent, with only a handful of players on Division I rosters. Lasher, who was the MVP of the state championship game and first-team all-state selection his senior year at Anchorage’s Dimond High School, was unsure if he would get his chance to play at the Division I level in college.

National exposure is frustratingly low for many talented Alaskan high school athletes. Thus, prospects often seek alternate avenues in order to be discovered in the recruiting circuit.

“I actually went to a prep school in Las Vegas (Impact Basketball Academy) after receiving no Division I or II offers out of high school,” said Lasher, explaining his struggles. “I had sent out a hundreds of tapes.”

“I had a bunch of coaches say that they really liked me on tape, but they just couldn’t make the flight out to see me play. It cost too much. “

At Impact, Lasher took full advantage of his court time and networking opportunities, proving he was ready to contribute on a Division I program. Ultimately, one of Lasher’s coaches introduced him to Houston Baptist assistant coach Jud Kinne, and an invitation to HBU came shortly thereafter.

With a scholarship in hand, Lasher completed his 3,300 mile transition from Anchorage – a modest municipality abutting the peerless Alaskan wilderness – to the sprawling Southern urban agglomeration that is Houston, Texas. That is no ordinary changeover, obviously. Houston’s 2.1 million residents outnumber the population of the entire state of Alaska nearly three-fold, according to the 2010 US Census.

Regarding his acclimation to Houston, Lasher added: “The heat was a big thing. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the summers here. I do enjoy the winters though – because it feels like summers in Alaska.”

Furthermore, as when any person is transplanted to a new cultural region, interpreting a new dialect can be challenging.

“People from Texas talk funny. It is more of the ‘HU’ combination. People say ‘humble’ as ‘umble’ and I have to translate a little when it comes to those things.”

Regardless of the local lingo, as a three-year-starter, Lasher’s vocal leadership on the court has been invaluable, rendering him a reliable extension of head coach Ron Cottrell.

“I know there are times where some of the new guys don’t understand what he wants, and I can better explain it to them after the fact. I think it is my role to help communicate that.”

Lasher can fill the stat sheet as well. Averaging 10 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, the 6’7” junior forward is a key cog on a Husky squad that sprinted to an 8-0 record in Southland Conference play, but saw their winning streak mushed-up by Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin in back-to-back losses. Despite the setbacks, HBU remains readily amidst the contenders for the regular season crown with eight games to play. With a quick regroup and strong finish, the Huskies may have an eye on reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since re-joining Division 1 prior to the 2007-08 season.

Monday night, Lasher and the Huskies (or is it ‘Uskies?) will trek to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for an important Southland battle. The game can be seen live on American Sports Network with tip-off slated for 9PM ET.

Above: Colter Lasher has found plenty of differences between Alaska and Houston but basketball remains universal. (Courtesy HBU Athletics)

Joel Mathwig

Joel Mathwig is a freelance writer based in Providence, R.I.