By Rowan Shiell
Representing Great Britain at the London Olympics has allowed Andrew Lawrence, 22, to play against some of the best players in the world, and while the experience was humbling, it taught him some valuable lessons which should help his development as a basketball player.
His most memorable game was against China, which was Great Britain’s only Olympic victory. GB had only been to the Olympics once before and that was the last time they hosted the games in 1948, where they went 0-5 in the preliminary rounds with their worst loss to Brazil by an unbelievable score of 76-11.
Great Britain has come a long way since then, but at their second Olympic Games, they looked set to repeat the previous performance as they lost the first four games in group play. Then in the last game against China, with only national pride on the line, they won by 32 points.
That was Lawrence’s best game, dishing out 6 assists and scoring 6 points in 28 minutes off the bench. The 6’1” point guard was the youngest member of the team and the only non-professional. He feels “privileged and honoured” to be a part of the historic victory.
Hopefully the lessons he learned at the Olympics will help his university team, the College of Charleston Cougars, in the coming season.
Bobby Cremins coached the Cougars during Lawrence’s first three years there. He also coached Lawrence’s father, Renaldo, in the late ‘70’s at Appalachian State.
“It’s a special thing because Bobby is a special person,” the elder Lawrence told ABCNews4, after attending a Cougar game during his son’s sophomore season. “I’ve always regarded him as another father to me. To have my son play for him, I know he’s in good hands and I know Bobby will do the best for him. So, it’s fantastic.”
Renaldo was drafted in the eighth round of the 1979 NBA draft by the San Diego Clippers and spent several years in the British Basketball League. So did his brother, David, who was also coached by Cremins at Appalachian State, and played in the BBL.
Yet despite the family legacy, Andrew did not start playing basketball seriously until he was 15. He was more into football and spent three seasons at Chelsea FC’s Academy.
Sadly Cremins, 65, has now retired after taking a medical leave of absence back in January. Assistant coach, Mark Byington took over the team and the Cougars ended the season with a 19-12 record, but missed out on an NCAA tournament bid when they were knocked out of their conference tournament in the first round.
The team might not have done as well as expected but that was the young Lawrence’s best season in college. He was a nominee for the Bob Cousy award, given annually to the best point guard in college, and was the Cougars’ second leading scorer with 13 points a game. Plus he led the team in assists with 5.5 per game and made the All Southern Conference Second Team after leading the conference in steals per game.
His senior season will be under a new coach, Doug Wojcik, who spent the last seven years coaching Tulsa and is famous for having played at Navy with a young Midshipman called David Robinson.
“Coach Wojcik has played college basketball at a very high level which has definitely helped me in the transition of learning all of the new philosophies under the new coaching regime,” said Lawrence. “Not to compare anyone to David Robinson, but fortunately for me, I have a first team all-conference big man in Trent Wiedeman and a returning all-freshman big man in Adjehi Baru, which should give us a strong inside and outside game this season.”
Antwaine Wiggins, last season’s leading scorer, has graduated and the Cougars will be counting on the continued improvement of the younger players including Baru and Wiedeman, the team’s top rebounder, in the coming season. Newcomer, junior college transfer, Anthony Thomas, is expected to help with scoring on the wing.
“Right now, we are looking strong and have very high expectations for ourselves this year,” said the physical education major, who is very proud to be from Woking. “We’ve brought in a lot of really good players and return a lot of the core players from last year, so the upcoming season is looking very promising for us.”
That is a sentiment shared by Coach Wojcik when he recently told ESPN that, “We’ve got high-character kids. They’ve really bought in. The key as a coach is to be consistent with them and communicate with them. People can handle what’s expected of them as long as they know what’s expected of them. Plus, it’s not like things were broken when I got here. I took over a great situation.”
A film documenting Andrew’s summer exploits is expected to be released just before the start of the season.
“The documentary follows me throughout my summer experience, both in Charleston and back home in London,” said Andrew, England’s 2009 U-18 player of the year. “It was a different experience to have the cameras follow me around 24/7 and I hope it gives people good insight on my journey to the Olympics and what it took to get there.”
Image Credits: Paul Zoeller, CofC Athletics Communications
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