He has been the one constant in a most inconsistent basketball season for Creighton.
Yet getting Kenny Lawson to admit that he's had a pretty good junior year is no easy task. For Lawson, personal satisfaction is measured by the one thing that has eluded the Bluejays most of the season.
“The only way I'll be happy is if we win,'' Lawson said. “Nothing would make me happier than to go down to St. Louis and win the Valley tournament. It's going to take a lot of work, but we can still do it.''
The 6-foot-9 Lawson will figure prominently in Creighton's bid to pull off that feat this week. The 16-14 Bluejays head to the Missouri Valley tournament at the Scottrade Center as the No. 4 seed and will face Bradley in a 2:35 p.m. game Friday.
Lawson helped Creighton lock up the fourth seed Saturday by scoring 20 points in the Bluejays' 82-71 home win over the Braves. It was the fourth time this season that Lawson has scored 20 or more points.
He has scored fewer than 10 points in just six of Creighton's 30 games. His 13.0 scoring average is an improvement of 4.5 points over his sophomore average, and it is just one of the areas in which he has made a marked statistical improvement.
His 6.7 rebounding average is up from 4.8 a season ago. He's shooting better from the field (54.9 percent this season, 52.8 percent last season) and from the free-throw line (82.3 percent this season, 76.1 percent last).
He ranks in the top 10 in the league in five statistical categories — scoring (10th), rebounding (sixth), field-goal percentage (second), free-throw percentage (seventh) and blocked shots (first, 1.4 average).
“I've been very pleased with his development and how he's slowed down and let the game come to him,'' coach Dana Altman said. “He makes good reads, his shooting percentages are very good and he's done a much better job of fighting the double teams. He's made progress in a lot of areas.''
Altman and Lawson agree that the one area that still needs some work is defense.
“We have to get a little more comfortable and thinking one pass ahead,'' Altman said. “He's just a little bit behind because he's not thinking that one pass ahead and thinking what position he needs to get into. We have to do a better job in helping him in that area.
“I think that would help him with some blocked shots and it would keep him out of foul trouble.''
Lawson wants to become a more physical player in the offseason.
“The thing I need to improve on the most is my on-ball defense in the post,'' he said. “I need to get a lot stronger and push people out instead of letting them seal me in under the basket. When I get scored on, that's usually the reason why.''
Before he gets to St. Louis, Lawson will find out if others deem his performance this season worthy of a spot on the all-conference team. The Valley announces its honor squads Tuesday, and Lawson probably stands the best chance of any Creighton player of landing a spot on either one of the two teams.
“That would be a great honor, but I don't think that's possible unless our team does well,'' Lawson said. “If the team does well, then not only me but other guys will get individual awards.
“It's five people on the court, and no one is going to do anything by himself. We all need the support of our teammates.''
There is a time, though, when each player must stand alone. That comes when he steps to the free-throw line. It's there where Lawson has stood taller than any big man in the conference this season.
The history of the game is filled with big men who have had difficulty shooting free throws. It's uncommon for the tallest guy on the team to be the best free-throw shooter.
Lawson is Creighton's. No Bluejay who has shot more than 20 free throws this season can touch his accuracy from the line. And he's been even better during league play, making 84.1 percent.
Asked if he takes pride in his ability to knock down his free throws,' Lawson replied: “They're easy points, and it comes down to focus. I've tried to focus more on the line this year.”
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