By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last season as a sophomore, Widener forward Greg Lawson put together a solid campaign for the Division III Pride. He averaged eight points and seven rebounds for a team that won just six games.
This season, the improvement for Lawson and the Pride is significant. The team has already eclipsed its win total of a season ago. They sit at 7-3 after Monday night’s win, 95-86, over Swarthmore.
As for Lawson, he had 14 points and 13 rebounds in that victory over the Garnet, good for his seventh double-double of the season. That is just about what Pride fans have come to expect from the Medford (NJ) Tech High School product. He heads into 2014 averaging 15.4 points and 13.4 rebounds a game. That rebound average has him ranked in the top five in the nation (through the NCAA’s last statistical report on December 15th).
“It’s all just mindset,” Lawson tells KYW Newsradio about his improvement. “Mentally preparing for games, taking that aggressive mindset to really push yourself to not take plays off. Really try to hit the boards hard.”
His head coach, Chris Carideo, says the raising of Lawson’s game is no accident.
“He wants to be good,” Carideo tells KYW Newsradio. “Every day, all summer, when I was here, he would go to work and on his way home from work he would stop here, he would lift, he would work on his game, he would go home. Five, six days a week. He played in two summer leagues. He was in my office, ‘What do I have to do to get better?’ If you look at him from a freshman to now, physically he’s grown. He really cares, he wants to be a good player.”
Lawson is listed at 6’6″, but his rebounding success is about much more than height.
“He has a knack for the ball,” Carideo says. “He judges the ball well off the rim. And his hands are humongous. If you ever shake his hands they are huge. They’re like mittens. I remember the first time I shook his hand when I recruited him, I was like, ‘This kid’s hands are huge!’ And that is obviously a good trait to have if you’re a rebounder. And he’s just relentless.”
Lawson agrees that a lot goes into cleaning the glass consistently.
“Anticipating every shot being missed and anticipating where the ball will go,” Lawson says. “And its that drive, not giving up, second . . three, four times . . tip, tip, try and get the ball yourself.”
While his numbers are starting to gain him some notoriety, Lawson says he is taking any added attention in stride.
“I definitely try to stay humble and try and keep working hard,” Lawson says. “I try to keep it (statistical success) on the back burner, just keep focusing on the team and wins, stuff like that.”
And his coach is quick to add that he is more than just a great basketball player.
“Just a really good kid,” Carideo says. “He’s got a 3.5 GPA. Last year, spring semester, got all A’s. He’s just a really good young man that works hard. I’m happy for him.”
Lawson and the rest of the Widener squad return to the court on Saturday at Stevenson.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.