For 6-9, 235-pound Georgia Tech Jr. Gani Lawal, testing the waters of the NBA Draft, seeing what NBA scouts had to say about his game, and then returning to college basketball has been the best thing for him.
"It's been great coming back. I've learned a lot. I'm better off for it," Lawal said during the NCAA Tournament on the eve of his final game.
"I've been asked about that before. The biggest thing I gained from it is just my understanding of the game. My understanding of the game has really improved over this last year."
Lawal has a non-stop motor, lets the game come to him, and would be a great addition off the bench for teams in need of some muscle down low.
Since Lawal tested the waters last year and pulled his name out, this underclassmen is in for good in 2010. He should be taken in the late-first round possibly sneaking into the late-teens. Lawal will bring his physicality to the next level but probably figures to be more of an energy guy off the bench at the next level.
I asked Lawal what he believes his biggest asset to be. "Just try to go out there and be a monster every night. Try to get every rebound, block shots, play good defense, try to get it down low, get some good looks, score, and be a leader. I'm an upper classman now. So just try to be a good vocal leader, lead by example out there for the guys," he responded.
The power forward teamed with Derrick Favors down low (a consensus top-five NBA draft pick) to give the Ramblin Wreck a powerful 1-2 punch in the post. Unfortunately, Tech had no perimeter game, and the team didn't go very far during March Madness.
He has some weaknesses including his inconsistent jump shooting, his perimeter defense, and inability to close out defensively. When I asked him what he was working on for the future Lawal said: "everything, my shooting, my awareness, getting bigger stronger, and obviously my free throws."
Gani doesn't have superstar potential, but he does figure to be a good energy guy off the bench like Brandon Bass. It would be easy to envision him having a pro career similar to Bass.
Lawal has many strengths including a good mid range jump shot, an ability to crash the boards, a diverse menu of post moves including a tasty turnaround jumper, a lot of passion and energy for the game and a consistent ability to finish explosively at the rim.