Opinion: Kimani Lawrence will be a big factor in ASU basketball's success

The talented Sun Devil freshman will have to play well in order for ASU to make noise in the tournament

ASU basketball forward Kimani Lawrence started off his freshman season on the wrong note as the Rhode Island native found himself on the surgery table with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Lawrence’s surgery went well, but he did not return to the court until the start of conference play. 

Now fully healthy and getting more playing time, Lawrence has developed into a player that head coach Bobby Hurley can trust as a cornerstone talent, versatile forward and high ceiling player.

"(Lawrence) has been steady and working hard," Hurley said in a press conference on February 13th. "Even when he wasn't getting the minutes he's getting extra work on his game."

In ASU’s most recent victory against UCLA, Lawrence had a career high eight points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes played as improved play and increased comfort with his role has given him more time on the court. In fact, Lawrence has played 10 or more minutes in two out of the last three games.

“I’ve been in that role as a player and professionally where you don’t even know when your name is going to get called,” Hurley said. “You got to be ready to perform.”

Lawrence received offers from schools such as the University of Florida, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Southern California.

Even with other offers on the table, Lawrence decided to become a Sun Devil on October 29, 2017, and he became ASU’s fourth highest recruit since 2007 as well as the highest recruit in the Bobby Hurley-era at the time of his commitment.

The New England native came into the season for the Sun Devils as ASU’s most highly anticipated freshman, but those expectations were tempered immediately due to surgery on the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Reports indicated that the injury occurred on a non-contact play in practice ahead of the team’s first regular season game against Idaho State University.

Although the Sun Devils ended up winning that game 94-74, Lawrence was anticipated to start in the game if it were not for the injury. Lawrence has not started once all year.

With forward Mickey Mitchell ineligible to play with the team until the University of Kansas game on Dec. 10, the Sun Devils front court became even more shorthanded thanks to the Lawrence injury. Even without Lawrence and Mitchell at forward, the Sun Devils went 12-0 in non-conference play and for a short time was the last team in division one college basketball to be undefeated.

As the chemistry and comfort of the team grew, the desire for another player like Lawrence in the lineup became less and less of a need as ASU won game after game in non-conference play.

"The maturity that he has shown has been great," Hurley said. "(I'm) very happy to see (Kimani) play well. We needed it."

While ASU looked unbeatable during their undefeated non-conference stint in the first half of the season, that's not the case today.

Since the start of Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils have played well at times, but for the most part have come down to earth with a 7-9 record in the conference.

Although The Sun Devils have a strong starting lineup, they need help, and Lawrence could be the answer.  

The Sun Devils are currently on a three-game losing streak and have been dominated inside the paint in recent contests. The length and versatility of Kimani Lawrence could have been used to a greater extent in ASU's efforts.

Giving Lawrence more minutes could translate into more reps and comfort for one of ASU's most talented players.

If ASU wants to get back to the team it was during non-conference play once March Madness begins, assuming ASU makes the tournament, it will definitely need talented Lawrence to be a big impact in the rotation for the Sun Devils.

Reach the columnist at kbriley@asu.edu and on twitter @KokiRiley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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