You haven’t heard of Lawrence Brown.
He’s not a bit player on a national powerhouse like Kentucky or North Carolina.
He’s not a star for a mid-major, or a diamond in the rough on a Division II team.
He’s a high school basketball player.
Lawrence, a senior, plays for Barstow Academy, a small private school in Kansas City, Missouri. He also plays for the KC 76er’s, an AAU team which shocked the circuit when they won the Las Vegas Fab 48 this summer.
He’s attracted some attention from a few mid-major programs, Oral Roberts being perhaps the most notable. He’s not a five star recruit, and he’s not going to be a one-and-done diaper dandy. The likes of Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, or UConn aren’t banging down his door, desperate to sign him to a scholarship.
Time for that to change.
First, let me get this out of the way. I know Lawrence Brown. He and his mother Tracy (also his biggest fan) have been around my extended family for so long that, for all intents and purposes, they are family. So yeah, my objectivity is nonexistent and I will refer to Lawrence by his first name, but that’s not the point. The point is that Lawrence Brown needs more exposure, and I’m doing my part to help.
I’ve tried to follow his career as best as I could, reading local box scores, asking family what tournaments he’s been in or, and asking him how he’s been doing. But last night was the first night I actually saw him play.
The first thing I noticed when both teams took the floor was Lawrence’s physical advantage. While the rest of the players, on both teams, either haven’t filled out their high school frame or still carry some excess weight, Lawrence sports a college ready physique. At 6’5 and 205 pounds of basically pure muscle, the cliché “a man among boys” fits him to a T. And while part of me wanted Lawrence to use that strength to completely dominate the game, I was just as impressed that he didn’t.
High school athletes who possess a physical frame superior to those around them will often forsake their fundamentals and skills in favor of attempting to out-muscle anyone and every one who dares to defend them. It takes the team out of their offense, and leads to a lot of ball-watching and isolations. Worse, when that physical advantage is gone, or when faced with a defense designed to neutralize that strength, both the player and the team become lost.
This is what impressed me about Lawrence. Despite his obvious physical advantage, and despite the fact that he was clearly the best player on the floor (it wasn’t even close), Lawrence rarely, if ever, stepped outside the team’s offense and looked to do it all on his own. He used his strength in such a way that it really became an asset for the entire team. He would use his strength to establish great post position, but that didn’t mean he was always looking to score. His position was just as much about getting his own shot as it was getting one for his teammates.
On one play, Lawrence’s was posted up about eight feet from the basket. The defender was doing a terrible job of denying him position, and Lawrence could have easily scored over him with any number of moves. At the last second, Lawrence spotted a teammate cutting to the rim from the opposite side, and hit him with a precise no-look pass for an even easier basket. Unfortunately, his teammate missed the lay up, but that doesn’t change the fact that Lawrence, when faced with the choice of attempting a good shot or passing for a great shot, made the right play. All of Lawrence’s talents, save for his scoring savvy, were on display in that one play. His strength, his basketball IQ, and especially his court vision and passing.
One of the hallmarks of both a great player and more importantly a great teammate is passing up a good shot for a great shot; making the extra pass or feeding the post rather than taking the contested jumper. Lawrence did this time after time after time. It was this unselfishness and savvy that, as much as anything, really makes me believe that Lawrence can have a serious impact for any college team.
Defensively, Lawrence struggled with foul trouble, but was otherwise terrific. On the perimeter, Lawrence used his length and lateral quickness to bother the ball handler, while down low, he used his strength to deny post position and his athleticism to either block or very clearly alter a shot.
The biggest question I always had pertaining to Lawrence was, “does he love the game?” A love of the game may not make a good player great, but it certainly elevates his game to a different level. By that same token, if a player with all of the talent in the world doesn’t love the game, he’ll never realize his vast potential. Last night, Lawrence received the ball on a fast break and finished with an emphatic two-handed dunk. The dunk, while impressive, wasn’t what answered my question, it was his reaction afterward. He was shouting, jumping around, beating his chest, showing his love for the game. That was all I needed.
Lawrence fouled out of the game with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter, finishing with 16 points, and (approximately) two blocks, four assists and six rebounds. Does that scream top-3 draft pick? No, probably not. But you’d be hard pressed to find a more complete game, and that’s exactly how I’d describe Lawrence’s overall game: complete.
Maybe Lawrence won’t be the next Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Perry Jones III. But with his complete game, be it shooting, defense, and especially his passing, I see no reason why he can’t mimic the role Travis Releford, the quintessential do-it-all glue guy. Finding a star player is difficult, but finding talented glue guys to hold the team together and contribute in any and every area is just as daunting. So, coaches and recruiters, while you’re banging on Shabazz Muhammad’s door, come give Lawrence Brown a visit, too.