College Sports

‘A hard decision.’ Frank Martin updates AJ Lawson’s NBA Draft status as deadline nears

Frank Martin updates AJ Lawson’s NBA quest, USC’s open scholarship

South Carolina coach Frank Martin provides an update on AJ Lawson going through the NBA draft process and USC’s pursuit of another recruit.
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South Carolina coach Frank Martin provides an update on AJ Lawson going through the NBA draft process and USC’s pursuit of another recruit.

A long way from where the NBA Combine is being held this week, A.J. Lawson is taking another step in his draft process.

South Carolina coach Frank Martin said Wednesday that his All-SEC guard is heading to the West Coast for workouts with NBA teams.

“(Lawson) went home to Toronto,” Martin said after a speaking engagement at Shaw Air Force Base. “I think he was flying today or tomorrow to Los Angeles. He’s going to spend 10 days there and go to his workouts from LA. And then he’s going to make a decision after that.”

Lawson, who made the SEC’s all-freshman team in 2018-19 after averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists, has until May 29 to decide whether he wants to remain in the draft or return to the Gamecocks for a sophomore season.

The 6-foot-6, 172-pounder from Canada didn’t receive one of the 66 invites to this week’s combine in Chicago, but he was asked to come to the new G League Elite Camp. Lawson declined that opportunity, citing a reach for something greater.

“His vision is to be in the NBA,” Martin said, “not to be in the G League.”

The two-round, 60-pick draft is June 20. In his latest “big board,” The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie lists Lawson as this draft’s No. 93 prospect.

Syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota reported last week that only 11 college players have been drafted over the last five years who didn’t secure a combine invitation.

ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony projects Lawson as a first round pick in the 2020 draft. Lawson is the third Gamecock to test the draft waters with eligibility remaining. Sophomore P.J. Dozier stayed in the draft in 2017. Junior Chris Silva came back to USC in 2018.

Martin said he’s in daily communication with Lawson.

“It’s selfish when I say I hope he’s back because that only serves me and my team and the University of South Carolina,” Martin said. “But he loves being here, too. So it’s one of those deals where … I say this to people all the time, ‘Put yourself in a place where you gotta make tough decisions. Tough decisions are when you got two great options to choose from.’ He’s got two great options to choose from — the NBA, life-long dream and the experience that he’s actually lived at the University of South Carolina, which he loves.

“So he’s got a hard decision, but he’s got to make the right one. And we’re in it with him.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.


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