USC Men's Basketball

South Carolina’s AJ Lawson announces his NBA Draft plans

Like Chris Silva before him, A.J. Lawson will test the NBA waters.

The South Carolina guard has announced he’ll submit his name for the NBA draft. He hasn’t hired an agent and can return to USC. Lawson initially made things things known Wednesday via his Twitter page.

“Thank you to the fans, coaches, staff and my teammates for a fantastic freshman year,” Lawson said in a USC press release. “I want to thank God for his blessings. The NBA has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I have decided to explore my possibilities. I will not be hiring an agent, but will be entering my name in the 2019 NBA Draft.”

Carolina coach Frank Martin added: “We are very excited for A.J. and the opportunity that he has to go through the process and test the NBA waters. He has worked extremely hard on the court to put himself in this position, and now, with declaring for the draft, he will be able to gather information and feedback from those at the next level.”

Lawson was an SEC all-freshman team member in 2018-19 after he averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and a USC-best 2.9 assists per game. He doesn’t pop up on any popular mock drafts this year, but is seen as a legitimate prospect for the 2020 draft.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic told The State on Wednesday that Lawson’s best chance at improving his stock would be to “shoot the ever-loving hell” of the ball during pre-draft workouts.

This news isn’t a complete shocker. Martin made it known during a season-wrap news conference on March 26 that Lawson was at least considering going through the draft process.

Lawson has until May 29 to go pro or return to school.

“He’s the one guy that, right now, has possibilities,” Martin said last month. “But we’re in the fact-finding information stage to see if it’s something that if it would be worth his time.

“The problem is the following: If you can do it, why not do it? If you lose eligibility, then I understand. But if you can declare and go get workouts and get real information in person, why not do it? Who’s getting hurt by that?”

Silva chose that route last year and worked out for some NBA teams before coming back and having another All-SEC season for the Gamecocks.

Over 100 underclassmen have already declared for the draft. The two-round event is June 20. The NBA combine will be held May 14-19 in Chicago.

Lawson said Monday at the Gamecock Gala that he’s excited about the potential of next year’s USC team.

“We’re gonna be a great team,” Lawson said. “I know that.”

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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