Jamal Lawson is in the midst of his finest season for the Graceland University (Iowa) men’s basketball team.
The guard out of Bartow High School entered the week having started all 16 games (11-5) for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I team. He led Graceland with his 18.3 scoring and 16.9 rebounding averages and in steals and blocked shots.
“He’s turned into a pretty good player offensively and defensively,” Graceland head coach Jeffrey Hamilton said.
The 6-foot-4 Lawson is one of three seniors and one of two captains.
“Coming into this season, I felt like I needed to be more of a leader,” said Lawson, the team’s sole player from the East Coast.
His command shows in his statistical rankings among Heart of America Athletic Conference players. He was second in field-goal percentage, fourth in blocks per game, fifth in steals per game, sixth in scoring average and ninth in rebounding average.
Indeed, he has been a reliable veteran, scoring 10 or more points, including at least 20 in six games, every game except one. He had a season high of 31.
“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t as an offensive threat as I am now,” he said. “We were always taught defense at Bartow. I thought I had to elevate my game offensively.”
Experience has helped him raise the bar. “As you get older, you learn this game more and more,” said Lawson, who averaged 9.7 points as a sophomore and 12.6 as a junior. “As a young guy, I always thought it was about just athleticism.”
His game knowledge has been the notable in his development, Hamilton said. “When he got here, he was raw with talent and ability,” he said. “His basketball IQ wasn’t where it needed to be. He’s a smart kid. He’s turned into a smarter player.”
Lawson has been a standout defensively as well, with a season high of 11 rebounds. He had more than three times as many defensive rebounds as offensive boards and ranked sixth in the conference in defensive rebounds.
He is interested in playing at a higher level after graduation. He said he plans to attend the Scorers first Showcase at University of Nevada, Las Vegas during July. The event is open to players wishing to show their talents to coaches, general managers and scouts for professional teams.
“I thank God every day that He has given me the abilities to play this game and has taken care of me,” Lawson said.
Send updates about area athletes to Barbara Boxleitner at BKLE3@aol.com.