Roundball Classic Feature: Gani Lawal

<b>CHARLESTON, S.C. –</b> The spotlight was on Gani Lawal at the Roundball Classic. Lawal, one of the top power forward prospects in the sophomore class, battled a stomach flu and West Ashley but came out on top.

Let's travel forward in time, say two years from now. Gani Lawal is a 6-foot-10, 225 pound senior. He's dunking everything and getting 25 points and 15 rebounds a game. He's a dominant player and a Top 10 prospect in the country. Riverdale, a young team, blossoms into one of the biggest forces in Georgia high school basketball.

It's possible, especially with Lawal.

The 6-foot-8, 205 pound sophomore helped his team finish the Roundball Classic on a high note with 19 points and 12 boards Thursday afternoon. The performance was even better than it looked on paper considering a stomach virus got to him last night and made his day miserable right up to pre-game.

Lawal, as we wrote after watching him the first day of the event, is a young man blessed with loads of natural ability and room to grow. Right now, there's little doubt we'd include him in our Top 25 and frankly like him considerably more than that.

Why you ask?

Because he's just scratching the surface. For example, Lawal doesn't finish everything inside. He also can't quite seem to corral every rebound, especially the contested ones in his area. Something's missing and that something is strength and Lawal knows it.

"I don't always have access to the weight room so I try to do push-ups," the well-mannered, charismatic Lawal said. "I've got to get stronger."

And he will get stronger in time and when he does? "I'm going to have a higher accuracy down low. I'll get those 2 points and the free throw."

To best capture who he can be and who he plays like, think of the body type of Brandan Wright and the shot blocking skills of Chris Bosh; he's sort of hybrid of those guys. Like Bosh and Wright when they were young, he can run but sometimes can't hold his spot in the post. With hard work, that'll come for him.

"Instead of a layup, I need to think dunk," Lawal said. "Sometimes I get in a hurry and rush it but if I take my time I think it can be a dunk."

Pretty soon, schools are going to turn up the heat on him. Some already have. Lawal counts offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, DePaul and Alabama. Duke came to Charleston to catch him this week and he says he's heard from North Carolina, Florida State, Kentucky and Wake Forest. Head coaches from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama have already laid eyes on him this season.

With Lawal you have to project where he'll be not just in two years, but even by the end of the season. His knees ache so there's got to be a growth spurt in that body. He's working on the strength when he can and he's got tools on offense and defense. There's every reason to think his best days are ahead of him.

On Thursday, in the midst of fighting off his stomach bug, Lawal thought back to Michael Jordan circa 1996. "I thought about Jordan because he had the virus in Game 6," Lawal said. "I told myself I had to do what it takes to win."

Though it wasn't very dramatic and he didn't have Scottie Pippen carrying him off the court – and he didn't need him either – he was able to leave the floor having won a basketball game and that makes it a good day.

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