In his second year with the program, BGSU guard Michael Laster has become a pivotal part of the success of this year’s basketball team. He impacts the team in plenty of different ways, but mainly through being a spark plug off the bench.
Laster, a senior transfer student, originally played at Central Georgia Technical College where he was a second-team All-American in the National Junior College Athletic Association. In the the 2017-2018 season, Laster averaged 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 2.5 steals for the Titans. Head Coach Michael Huger liked what he saw in the junior college product, and was able to get him to come to Bowling Green.
But when he arrived on campus, Laster’s role changed. He was no longer the best player on his team, instead he was looked at to be a role player, one that could provide a spark off the bench.
“He changes the tempo of the game, I mean he changes everything about the game and what we do and how we do it. He is able to create shots for others as well as himself and that spark sometimes when we come out flat, he changes the pace of the game for us so that’s why I really like him in that role,” Huger said.
That role isn’t just about scoring and setting up his teammates, Coach Huger and the rest of the coaching staff see Laster as a person that can lead the second group of players. Laster is also confident that he is that player himself.
“I think it’s important for this team because we need a leader off the bench to provide for the second group and I think I’m that leader. I’m just going to keep leading the second group and keep doing what I’m doing,” Laster said.
That role has stayed constant throughout his two years with the Falcons, Laster has been the sixth man and leader off the bench for the Falcons. However, his style of play has changed a bit since last season; this year, Laster is looking to be more of a passer for the team.
He proved in multiple stretches last year that he was capable of scoring the basketball, getting into double digits seven times last season, including a career-high of 18 points against Central Michigan. This year, Laster has only scored in double-digits twice, but is second on the team in assists behind only Dylan Frye. For him, he takes pleasure out of seeing his teammates get on the scoreboard.
“I just learned to get the person next to me better. I’m all about making the next person better. I like passing the ball, when my teammates score, I score and that makes me happy. Seeing them make shots and perform the way they do,” Laster said.
Laster is also one of the best in the MAC this season at passing the ball — he ranks No. 9 in assists per game with 3.1. Even more impressively, he leads all players in the MAC in assist to turnover ratio at 2.4. Coach Huger attributes this unselfishness to the mentality that Laster brings to the court.
“Mike has a mentality, a next play mentality. Whatever happens, whatever went wrong, he’s able to move on from that play and go onto the next thing. He can forget real easy about what just happened and that’s what makes him successful in that role,” he said.
Being in that role isn’t always easy though, and it certainly isn’t always something that players want, but for Laster it comes down to what will overall help the team.
“I wouldn’t say I like the role. I feel like everyone wants to be a starter but I accept the role and if it has anything to do with my team winning then I’m all for it. I’m just all about the team and what’s best for the team and if that’s me coming off the bench then I’m fine with it,” Laster said.
Accepting that role goes all the way back to last season for Laster. Every coach has to make a decision of who to start and who to have come off the bench.
“I’m really just trying to do what the team wants me to do. It’s been working like ever since Caleb Fields and Daeqwon Plowden in the lineup we’ve been winning and he’s been having me and a couple of other guys come off the bench. That’s just been our role and we accept that role and it’s just been working for us ever since,” he said.
Working might be an understatement as the Falcons are 43-20 since the beginning of last season and currently hold the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament with two regular season games left to go.
Laster has been a huge part of that success since coming from Georgia last season, and he will certainly continue to be a key part of the Falcons as they enter the postseason.