When Bronx-bred guard Omari Lawrence committed to St. John's, he was an aggressive, coveted slasher, a New York City player who other teams actually wanted, who decided to come to St. John's. That was a coup back then, the result of a strong effort from Norm Roberts coupled with the hiring of AAU coach Oz Cross, former coach of the LI Lightning. When he was signed, Omari was nice - an agile, tough, do-it-all player who could finish around the rim.
Once on the floor for the Johnnies, however, Lawrence couldn't supplant the returning guards. He was overweight, earthbound after packing on some pounds after a shoulder injury his senior year. His body and condition were not college-ready, and the prodding by the St. John's staff didn't whip him into shape.
Omari shot poorly, and didn't earn time, even if he had potential and could play a number of roles on the court, from defending Duke's Kyle Singler to pumping in points against Villanova off the bench to rebounding the defensive end. It's hard to justify playing a slasher who can't slash effectively and turns the ball over.
Alas, after a summer meeting with then-new Coach Steve Lavin, Omari Lawrence took his leave of St. John's and New York, moving out to the OTHER Manhattan, the one in Kansas, to join with Frank Martin's Kansas State squad. Well, after a year of junior college.
What happened to Omari? More, below the fold.
After idling on the bench for the Wildcats last year under Frank Martin, it seems that Lawrence has rededicated himself to conditioning under his new coach, the former Fighting Illini head man Bruce Weber.
The first-year Wildcat coach [Weber] points to 6-foot-3 junior guard Omari Lawrence as the surprise of the summer camp, which has included three 40-minute on-court sessions each week, plus strength and conditioning workouts four days a week.
"To be honest, he didn't have a good spring, but he came back and lost at least 15 pounds since May and has proven he wants to be a part of it," said Weber of Lawrence, who was a transfer from St. John's and was limited to just nine games and five total points scored last year. "He's athletic, aggressive, and... is one of the X-factor guys. Those are energy guys who are challenging each other for minutes."
It's good to see players who choose a different path - especially after a coaching change - flourish. While a little conditioning isn't the same as fulfilling the potential that the Bronx guard once had, Lawrence is stepping his game up to get on the floor in the final years of his college basketball career.
Perhaps Bruce Weber is trying to pump up his confidence, as coaches are wont to do over the summer. Or maybe Lawrence is turning a corner.
Kansas State has a 10-day summer tour of Brazil to get ready for the season; K-State will start to see the results of Omari's improvement.
The Wildcats hope he returns to the form of the highlights below.