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VCU senior made a big change for his game on and off the court

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RICHMOND, Va. - As a standout basketball player in high school at Benedictine, Khris Lane dreamed of playing big time college basketball with a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.

His first stops were at Drexel in Philadelphia, then on to Longwood University where he averaged 17 points and seven rebounds a game for the Lancers last year.

When his time in Farmville ended, Lane fielded up to 50 offers from schools to play as a graduate transfer. While coming back home to play for the VCU Rams was enticing, it wasn't the main factor in his decision.

"I had those final five schools that I was interested in, but ultimately it was me having a relationship with Coach (J.D.) Byers," Lane said. "He's someone I've known and trusted for six years."

So Lane is spending his final college season with the Rams. It hasn't been all smooth.

He had to work his way back from an injury over the summer, but Lane recently had his best game as a Ram scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a win at George Mason.

"Just adjusting to not being the Alpha Dog anymore. Being amongst other really good players. Also the speed of the game, getting adjusted, missing a lot of time in the summer."

And that's not the biggest adjustment Lane has made to better his game.

In the short time he was at Drexel, Lane availed himself to all of the great food in the Philadelphia area. That led to him packing on more than the freshman 15, and ballooning up to around 280 pounds, too much for him to be effective at the college level.

He needed a change, and a former Drexel assistant suggested becoming a vegetarian, not an easy decision for anyone let alone a young man living on his own for the first time.

"Between 18 and 21, you don't want to make choices that are different than your peers, but he felt he needed to do that," said VCU head coach Mike Rhoades. "He felt that was a huge difference for him."

"I, in a number of ways, went cold turkey (No pun intended?)" Lane said. "A lot of people when they start, they start with pork, turkey and beef and chicken. The biggest thing I hear is I could never stop eating chicken. I might be one of those people. I love Chick Fil-A.

"But when I kicked it, I kicked it," said Lane.

Lane noticed an immediate change. He dropped around 50 pounds over a span of just a few months. His stamina and speed improved, he didn't get sick as often.

Now, he can be found several times a week at the Harrison Street Cafe, just a few steps from the Siegel Center. The popular vegetarian spot, in some ways, reminds him of Philly.

"I love Halal food, I kind of picked it up in Philly," Lane said. "This (gyro) used to be lamb four years ago, now it's Seitan which is like a wheat gluten. It looks like meat and has the texture of meat, but it's not meat."

There are concerns with Lane's lifestyle change.

A college basketball player burns several thousand calories a week and Lane does not get protein in the traditional ways others do. He hasn't eaten meat in four years, but through the help of the VCU staff and his own willpower, he's keeping himself in prime playing condition.

"Khris has to do a really good job and he does a really good job of eating a variety of foods to make sure he's getting those complete proteins and those carbohydrates in order to perform at a high level," said Don Brown, VCU's strength and conditioning coach.

"It shows a great discipline for a college student athlete to maintain this style for this long and not trip up."

"It's been all pluses," Lane added. "Obviously, I can't go enjoy a steak, but that's a sacrifice I'll make."

"It's something I want to do and I'll do it for the rest of my life."

Lane has considered becoming a full fledged vegan except for two things: First, he really loves and could not give up cheese, and second, it's a very expensive lifestyle for any college student.

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