Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Kimani Lawrence, a graduate student forward for ASU men’s basketball, started off playing football and had aspirations of getting into the NFL.
Lawrence, just like any kid growing up throwing the pigskin around, hoped to be a star quarterback one day. Once Lawrence started playing football for real, he played a multitude of positions on the field ranging from tight end, quarterback and defensive end.
“Growing up my first sport was football. I always wanted to go into the NFL,” Lawrence said. “Me and my friends would always be just playing football in the yards or in the fields. So growing up, football was my main sport.”
The possibility of being the next Tom Brady, with a little more versatility, of course, came to an end at the conclusion of his freshman year of high school when Lawrence realized basketball was his calling.
“I just started playing with my friends. I was just playing at the courts and stuff like that,” he said. “I feel like that’s the way you really learn how to play in sync and with toughness.”
Lawrence had a back and forth relationship with basketball before his high school days, but once he transitioned to playing the sport after his first year of high school, football was left in the rearview mirror.
Growing up in a small area like Rhode Island, Lawrence found it tough to find others with the same athletic goals as he did and often had to reach outside the area in order to have a shot with basketball.
“Growing up in Providence was hard. There weren't a lot of guys to look up to that wanted to do the things that I wanted to do,” Lawrence said. “There weren't a lot of guys really making it to the pros or even going to play Division I basketball.”
Lawrence found success with growing his brand and awareness once he entered the AAU circuit with Expressions Basketball in Boston, Massachusetts, only about 50 miles away from Providence.
“My AAU coach (Todd Quarles) played a huge role in my success in basketball and putting me in front of the right people to showcase my talent,” Lawrence said. “That’s when I got to really play in front of coaches and scouts that know a lot more about basketball, and I got my name out there.”
When narrowing the decision down to where he wanted to play in college, Lawrence saw ASU as a place where his position was needed and went after the opportunity, which is what any athlete strives to get.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I was wanted and where I was needed,” Lawrence said. "I was like ‘man, they could use me, and they need a guy at my position.’ That really affected my decision the most and I really liked (Bobby) Hurley as a coach. They embrace me here.”
Moving across the country and entering ASU as a freshman on the team, Lawrence didn't think he would continue to play after his first year.
“High school you think you work hard, and then coming into here you’re like ‘OK, I wasn’t working hard.’ So then you work hard coming into freshman year and then after that, you have a freshman year where you’re barely playing and you’re like ‘damn, I thought I worked hard that year,’ so then you work even harder,” Lawrence said.
ASU head coach Hurley said he is excited to have Lawrence back for a fifth year and pointed out that he has improved in all facets of his game.
“He’s worked very hard on his game and he really built up his confidence through the later stages of last year,” Hurley said. “I think (Lawrence) really kind of found himself in terms of the way he moved throughout the ball and the way he rebounded and even the way he’s defending in practice.”
Lawrence will look to capitalize on his last year of eligibility with the Sun Devils beginning on Nov. 9 against the University of Portland at 5 p.m. MST in Tempe.
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