UK Men's Basketball

Meet the Cats: Lanter's role is to push the Cats, with style and grace

UK guard Tod Lanter waited his turn Thursday during photo day for the Kentucky men’s basketball team at Joe Craft Center.
UK guard Tod Lanter waited his turn Thursday during photo day for the Kentucky men’s basketball team at Joe Craft Center. Lexington Herald-Leader

Arrive at your locker. Pull off your polo. Put on a practice T-shirt. For Tod Lanter, this bit of ho-hum routine is fraught with danger.

"Oh, Tod's got his shirt off again," Kentucky teammate Jon Hood has been known to say when he spots Lanter changing for practice.

Hood pleads guilty to first-degree teasing. He unabashedly pokes fun of Lanter, the style of jocularity long a staple of athletic teams. During an interview session last month, he smiled slyly and urged reporters to ask Lanter about liking to show off his pecs. According to Hood, Lanter is seeking a triple-double in points, rebounds and tan lines.

"I stay in the sun," Lanter said with what-can-I-say resignation. "I'll go to the lake all I can."

Lanter usually goes to Lake Cumberland and Lake Herrington. Hood went along on such trips this past summer.

"It became an out-of-control joke when we got back," Lanter said. "About how dark I am. (Hood) was, like, 'I was at the lake all summer. I didn't get dark like that.'"

A tan comes easily for an outdoors-lover like Lanter. He started snow skiing at about 2 years old, he said, and considered himself an expert by 12.

When asked when he first started skiing, he said, "I honestly don't remember, but it came very naturally to me because I did it all the time."

Lanter, the son of former UK player Bo Lanter, said his family would go on skiing trips each winter.

With this background, Lanter figured he'd be a natural at water skiing, too. He figured wrong.

"I was, like, I'm not worried about this at all," he said, "and it took me three hours to get up out of the water. It's a much different skill, and I thought they'd be pretty much the same thing. But they're not at all."

Despite all the skiing (including jet skiing), Lanter dismissed the possibility of injury.

"Oh, no," he said. "I've been on the water my whole life. So I handle myself pretty well."

As for basketball, Lanter said his role was to play hard.

"The reason I'm here is the same reason I was here last year: to push everybody," he said. "If it's sprints, I push them to run faster. . . . In general, just push them to do everything better. And that's not necessarily just my role as a walk-on. That's everybody's role."

Lanter was neither surprised nor discouraged by playing sparingly last season, his first for UK.

"I knew that coming in," he said. "You rise to the level of your competition."

By that standard, Lanter can improve greatly.

"They're my competition," he said of his heralded teammates. "We're pushing each other, and I'm pushed, too. Our role as teammates is to make each other better. At some point, (Coach John Calipari) likes to turn the reins over to the team. ... He wants to hand the reins of the Kentucky basketball program over to a bunch of 18-year-olds. That's shows an unbelievable amount of confidence in this team. That only pushes us to trust him more and play our hearts out for somebody like us."

For those who might be impatient about this process reaching fruition, Lanter might say, Keep your shirt on."

Tod Lanter

Uniform number: 21

Height, weight: 6-2, 190

Position: Guard

Class: Junior

Hometown: Lexington, Ky.

High school: Paul Laurence Dunbar

Twitter: @tod_lanterIII

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