When asked to name the player who has most surprised him after a few months of offseason practices, Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber didn’t mention any of the usual suspects.
No need for him to single out Rodney McGruder or Jordan Henriquez. Weber knew how good they were long before he moved to Manhattan.
Instead, Weber went with someone he didn’t see much of last season.
“You know who has played really well?” Weber said. “Omari Lawrence. I think he has been the surprise of the summer.”
Surprise? Shock may be a better word. Lawrence, a junior guard who transferred to K-State from St. John’s after a redshirt year in junior college, played so rarely in his debut season with the Wildcats that some fans might have trouble recognizing him. (He’s the one on the left in the above picture, by the way).
Though he played in nine games, he only saw time at the very end of blowouts. His season totals: 20 minutes, six rebounds, five points and two assists. Not much for a new coach to go by there.
But every player responds to a coaching change differently. It seems Lawrence has responded very well to Weber after struggling under former coach Frank Martin.
Weber said Lawrence has lost almost 20 pounds from the end of last season, and is putting his new 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame to good use.
“He dropped a lot of weight and came in with a good attitude,” Weber said. “He gave himself the chance to be in good shape. He has a better motor, he’s active and that’s all been good. He’s very committed right now. When he’s coming away from workouts you can tell he’s really putting the time in. I’ve seen a lot of good things from him.”
It will be interesting to see how much Lawrence can contribute next season. If he has regained the form that helped him play in 25 games and briefly start as a freshman at St. John’s, he could find a spot in the rotation.
Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez are returning starters, and Martavious Irving, Shane Southwell and Jeremy Jones have more experience than Lawrence, so competition will be fierce. But Lawrence’s size enables him to play at both shooting guard and small forward.
His versatility could come in handy. So could his playing style.
“He’s a slasher,” Weber said. “A really athletic slasher.”
K-State fans didn’t get to see that talent from Lawrence a year ago. Maybe they will next year.
For now, Weber is looking forward to seeing what he can do against outside competition when K-State travels to Brazil for a series of exhibition games in August.
“When the players left in the spring, we challenged them,” Weber said. “We obviously had some established guys, and we wanted to see more competition. Now there is good competition, and Omari is part of that. If he continues with this work ethic and attitude, he’s definitely put himself in position. He mas moved up the depth chart at this point. Again, he’s just been the nicest surprise of the summer.”