USA TODAY Sports
Don't look for him to become a star, but Omari Lawrence has settled into a useful role for Bruce Weber's team.
The first time I saw Omari Lawrence take the court this season, I figured we would never see him playing any kind of meaningful minutes against real opponents. Then for a while after he started to do just that, I wondered what the hell Bruce Weber could be thinking putting this offensively challenged kid on the floor. Sometimes it seemed like we were trying to score with 4 on 5 if Omari was on the floor.
But as the season has progressed, I realized that in sort of the same way Grizzly Bear's Shields was actually a fantastic album despite being somewhat incomprehensible on the first listen, Omari's presence can make this team better. Perhaps it was partly because he learned to better play within himself and not try to do too much on offense, but rather because Bruce Weber saw something in the kid from the Bronx that I missed at first glance.
Just so we're clear, I don't foresee Omari becoming a serious threat, and I'm still trying to figure out how Texas' defense let him get 12 points (LOL Longhorn) in what turned out to be a very fun game for all KSU fans, players and coaches. In fact, he still probably shouldn't be playing in the postseason unless the 'Cats are up by ten or more, for reasons that should become clear in a moment.
Without the aforementioned Texas game, Omari is playing about 6 minutes per game in league play and averaging right about 1 point per game, which sounds about right. He doesn't have much of a shot (he probably shouldn't take any more 3s unless it really feels right) and still looks a little disoriented when dribbling or even trying to move off the ball in the motion offense.
What Omari always brings, though, is a motor and obvious determination that can not only help him beat or defend superior athletes, but also surely gives a boost to his teammates. If KSU's effort is ever slacking or other guards are forced to ease off because of foul trouble, Lawrence has proven himself to be a suitable replacement that can occasionally even restore the 'Cats' energy level.
I realize they played different positions, but I see a little bit of Victor Ojelaye in Lawrence. Common sense dictated that Ojelaye, at 6-6, wouldn't have a prayer against some of the taller, more athletic bigs in the league, but he somehow nearly always managed to do a little better than you expected from him.
Lawrence doesn't have anything close to the sheer scoring prowess and athleticism of Rodney McGruder, the shot of Will Spradling, or the ballhandling and vision of Angel Rodriguez. Still, it's easy to tell he's earned their respect and the right to spell them at times if Martavious Irving isn't available or perhaps in one of his funks, which have happily become less frequent.
I guess we should have paid attention back when Weber called Omari the "surprise of the summer", even if he was being a little generous with the phrase "very athletic slasher." You never really know what you're going to get with a transfer who struggled at his previous D-1 school (St. John's) but it seems like Omari has settled in and maybe....just maybe....might be positioning himself for a more productive senior season.
If all goes well, of course, Lawrence should see a lot of playing time tonight against Texas Tech in Manhattan. The Red Raiders have lost by 18, 34, 27 and 20 against the league's top six teams on the road this season, and they haven't even played at Allen Fieldhouse yet. It would be great to give Will a chance to relax and cheer on Omari if K-State can put the game away early.
Don't forget to keep Jordan Henriquez and his family in your thoughts/prayers. Take care of business, 'Cats!