South Carolina’s AJ Lawson talks NBA Draft, fashion
A.J. Lawson is coming back.
The expected news has arrived with South Carolina announcing that its reigning SEC all-freshman team performer is returning to the Gamecocks after testing the NBA draft waters.
“I’m announcing today that I will be withdrawing my name from the NBA Draft and I’m excited to return to Carolina for my sophomore season as a Gamecock,” Lawson wrote.
Lawson, a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season, wasn’t invited to the NBA combine and reportedly turned down an invite to the new G League camp. These were signs that his chance at being taken in June’s two-round draft might have to wait a year.
“We just got a commitment from a 9-star recruit,” Frank Martin tweeted soon after the news broke. “He got 4 in HS and 5 in college.”
Lawson is projected to be a first round pick in the 2020 draft.
“One reason he can genuinely benefit from staying in school is from the strength and conditioning program at South Carolina,” The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie told The State in April. “Strength and conditioning programs at a school like South Carolina in the SEC, those are gonna be better than the strength and conditioning program in the G League, where is where he’d probably spend the majority of his time next year.”
Lawson, 18, was one of Canada’s top prospects when he reclassified to the 2018 class and signed with the Gamecocks last summer. The four-star prospect lived up to the billing in Year 1.
“It’s the physical tools, it’s versatility, it’s the creativity with the ball in his hands,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony told The State. “The flashes of shot-making ability, the flashes of defense. He checks off a couple of boxes, so if you believe in your strength program, your development system, it’s a guy that can develop into something pretty interesting for years down the line.”
Lawson is the second Gamecocks in two years to make this move. Chris Silva received feedback from NBA teams before removing himself from the 2018 draft. Silva then went on to earn first-team All-SEC honors for a second straight season.
With Silva’s departure, Lawson is likely to be the centerpiece to USC’s offense. Frank Martin hinted at a more guard-oriented style during an offseason news conference in March.
“When you return a bunch of players you kind of have a feel for the guys coming back,” Martin said. “We probably won’t play solely through the low post next year. We probably need to play a little differently. We probably might evolve defensively because we have so many 6-foot-6 athletic guys.”