I'm very much pumped for the imminent start of the season. There's a lot to be excited about. We are closing in on being one month away from the first tip off, and already in a few days the team is hosting Midnight Madness in Mackey. As much as the Athletic Department's new electronic format for student tickets has frustrated and confused me so far this football season, I think it will start to make sense when we no longer have to tailgate overnight in the cold for Paint Crew tickets (at least that's what I'm hoping for).
Additionally, Purdue fans should be very much excited about all of the new talent coming to West Lafayette this season. We have some very talented freshmen this year, each of whom has a chance to make an immediate impact.
Likewise, today's featured player in the Basketball Countdown made a noticeable impact as a freshman last season. Now that #34 Jacob Lawson is a sophomore, the Forward enters the new season with the added pressure to performance with more intelligence and less aggression. Thus, the big man hopes to earn more minutes en route to becoming a key contributor for this basketball team. But, it won't be an easy task.
Jacob Lawson - So.
Hometown: Reidsville, NC (Oak Ridge Military Academy)
6'8", 217 pounds
2012 projection: Contributor at Forward
In some respects, Lawson had an impressive true freshman season in a supporting role last year. In 30 appearances and 4 starts, he averaged 2.4 points per game, 11.1 minutes, 1.9 rebounds, 0.7 blocks per game and a solid .596 shooting percentage. That's a pretty impressive stat line, all things considered. And at times last season, I think many people saw flashes of Purdue's next starring big man in Jacob when he was on the court, dunking here and swatting shots there.
However, though Jacob showed his serious skills on defense and shooting close to the hoop, he had some serious issues on the court, the major ones unfortunately being fouls and immature character issues.
Last year, Lawson racked up 2.2 fouls per game. Which doesn't seem that bad, but given that he only played 11 minutes per game, that number would bloat well past an egregious 4 fouls per game if he were a starter or sixth man playing 20 minutes a game. Even for a big man that's a lot of fouls.
Looking further into Lawson's foul troubles, he fouled out in 3 games last year, all 3 in which he played 14 minuets or less. He also racked up 3 or more fouls in 13 games, almost half of his appearances, while seeing over 17 minutes in only 2 of those contests.
Really, I think the foul issue is mostly a combination of Lawson being an inexperienced freshman, a big man (more prone to being called for fouls) and having an aggressive defensive style of play.
But, sometimes his on the court behavior seemed a bit too aggressive and over the top. If Jacob wants to reach the next level and earn a starting spot over the hefty competition around him, I think he will have to mature and settle down his playing style.
And, boy oh boy, does Lawson ever have some competition around him right now. This season he will have to fight the likes of Sandi Marcius, Donnie Hale, Travis Carroll and freshman phenoms A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson for minutes. Not an easy task if you ask me.
What's worse is that because of his often overly aggressive play, Lawson's minutes really fell off at the end of the season, especially at the start of the Big Ten and NCAA tourneys. It will be interesting to see if Lawson can work his way back into more minutes this season, but for now, it looks like he will still be coming off the bench in most games and rarely earning more than 10 to 12 minutes.
It's sad to see a talent like Lawson get passed over, but that's life. It's a tough pill to swallow. Like Tacos, he has tons of skill, but this year brings on new challenges--heightened expectations, extra positional competitors and the loss of significant minutes.
Until Jacob Lawson can sharpen up his mental game, play more productive and smarter defense, take the time to mature emotionally and be less aggressive on the court, it seems he will continue to be simply a part of this team's supporting cast while others earn more playing time instead of him.