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St. John's basketball 2008 Year in Review Part X: Eugene Lawrence

Part 0: Opening | Part I: Team stats | Part II: Boothe | Part III: Burrell | Part IV: Cavataio | Part V: Dele Coker | Part VI: Sean Evans | Part VII: Paris Horne | Part VIII: Tomas Jasiulionis | Part IX: DJ Kennedy

Geno takes shot vs West VirginiaEugene "Geno" Lawrence

(stats taken from, Statsheet, Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Prospectus, and my own calculations)

2007-2008: Senior
Position: Guard
Height: 6-1
Weight: 210 lbs
Age: 21 (06/22/1986)
Home: Brooklyn, NY

Eugene Lawrence 2007-2008 Highs

High Points (Conf) 16 (Duke)
High Assists (Conf) 7 (W Va, Dep)
High Rebounds 11 (@W Va)
High FT Attempts 12 (Marq; 5 made)
High Steals 4 (Prov)
High FG Att 12 (Mia; 3 made)
High TO 5 (Mia, Dep)
High 3 pt Att 6 (Nova, Prov)

Guard Eugene Lawrence completed his STJ career third on the school’s all-time list in assists (520), fourth in 3-pointers made (122) and fifth in steals (196).

Lawrence vs DeMarcus Nelson of Duke

If I say nice things about Eugene Lawrence, will there be a St. John’s basketball fan waiting in a rice paddy to pop a cap in my a**? Just asking.

The Red Storm’s tri-captain had a year… well… like Art Howe said about the Mets over and over again, he battled. He got his steals, made some assists, drew a lot of fouls. Mostly, many fans were happy to see him go as a requiem for the talent-less days of low-grade recruits, the last vestiges of that awful year after the Pitt scandal.

Except for the fact that more players seem to be leaving, and the talent base, while better, isn’t notable in the Big East. The talent itself should be competitive; but the coach is the biggest question mark of them all. On top of it all, Geno’s on-court performance was underwhelming. He had some good games – against South Florida, against Seton Hall; but in other games, his lack of quickness doomed him (and as the primary ballhandler, the team) to big early deficits and an inability to get other players their shots.

At times, he was too tentative getting the ball to Burrell in the post when he had good position. Maybe that was from years of playing with non-offensive centers. And he always over dribbled, looking for a penetration opportunity; but without a lot of quickness, that requires an amount of dribbling that takes the air out of a team. Lawrence’s drive in the lane at the end of regulation against West Virginia was one of the worst ideas I’ve seen at that stage of a game, with two hot players (Mason + Wright) on the court. I think he was thinking of a final redemptive hero moment. But his shot got altered and he didn’t draw the foul. So he didn’t get to go out on senior day with a moment that would trump his unfortunate "I don’t play for the fans" quote, where he was addressing the boo birds he'd been receiving.

I would have said that he regressed when he was showed growth and promise, but perhaps his 2006-2007 was a fluke:

%Shots eFG% FTRate 2ptPct 3ptPct
2006 18.1 43.7 49.8 0.443 0.287
2007 13 48.6 42.1 0.397 0.370
2008 17.3 40.8 53.3 0.429 0.258
%Min ARate TORate %Stls
2006 80.3 33.2 31.2 3.1
2007 82.6 35.3 37.4 3.3
2008 69.4 27.9 24.0 3.6

Note the outlier 2007 year. Lawrence didn’t shoot 2-pointers as well, and turned the ball over more. His three point shooting was under 30%, but he took more shots. He got to the line less in 2007. And assisted on more baskets (which might be a factor of playing with better offensive players).

What was the difference? He was a man of extremes in 2007, being very good at some things (assist rate, free throw rate) and really bad at others (turnovers). But in 2008, he was only very good at drawing fouls, and he did reduce his turnover rate from "fingers of teflon" to "fingers of marble." I’d like to point out that a player doesn’t get credited with a turnover when he makes a craptacular entry pass, it seems, or for the many times he fumbles the ball up court.

The numbers seem to say that despite words to the contrary, Lawrence can’t carry a team on his back at all. He’s best as a complementary piece; and that piece would have been better off the ball.

I know he was a poorer defender against quicker guards, but his defense against Deonta Vaughn (the first game) and strong guards in general was admirable, frustrating, and set a tone for what Coach Norm Roberts wants to do. Unfortunately, there are also quick players to defend against, and basketball is not solely a game of strength (which the coach wants to develop in his players), so that whole tone might be flawed.

I can see how Lawrence could go into coaching; he knows how to compete even when he’s playing far above his station. He knows what he wants and gets out there to get it. I actually couldn’t believe that the dude who played next to Telfair at Lincoln got a scholarship to play ball; the guy who conveniently transferred to Lincoln from Canarsie to get more exposure. That’s an admirable move, and one that paid off; he would never be featured on the pre-game "Star Watch" on ESPN if he played for Central Connecticut or UNC-Charlotte.

But more seriously, Geno has moves, and an ability to get into the lane to draw fouls. He’s crafty with a basketball; how else could someone play on the Big East level without any great quickness? He’s tough and hard to intimidate. He anticipates opposing players’ moves and gets steals. That’s the kind of spirit coaches love.

Geno Lawrence vs Rutgers

It’s been 4 decent years for Eugene Lawrence, and I won’t crucify the man for taking the best scholarship available. He never made excuses, fought hard, gave his best effort. On a winning team, or a team where he was a sparkplug off of the bench, he would be well-loved. But he was unable to fulfill the duties of a Big East lead guard, partly because of his own limitations, and partly because of the limitations of the team and staff around him. Geno's made a name for himself on Utopia Parkway, and I am sure that will serve him well in the coming years.

Unless he tries to continue playing in Europe. I don’t think that would be the most lucrative idea.

All Conf
Minutes Per Game 27.9 27.1
Effective FG Pct 40.7% 35.8%
FG Pct 34.4% 30.4%
3pt FG Pct 25.8% 22.0%
FT Pct 70.2% 69.1%
FT Rate 53.3% 53.9%
Points Per Game 7.7 6.2
Rebounds Per Game 2.8 2.8
Off Rebs Per Game 0.6 0.4
Def Rebs Per Game 2.2 2.4
Assists Per Game 3.7 3.2
Steals Per Game 1.7 1.2
Turnovers Per Game 2.3 2.3
Assist-Turnover Ratio 1.6 1.4
Blocks Per Game 0.1 0.2
Fouls Per Game 2.4 2.2