Eugene Lawrence has been doing it for years.
“I feel the strongest part of my game is to make other players better on my team,” said the 6-foot-1 guard from Brooklyn. “Wherever I go, whatever team I’m playing for, my goal is to make my teammates better at what they do. Even though I am a point guard and a small kind of guy, I have a strong voice that brings out the best in people.”
Back at Lincoln High School, Lawrence helped free up and get the ball to backcourt mate Sebastian Telfair.
Telfair now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers and Lawrence is entering his second season with St. John’s, a fact that does not bother him in the least.
“When I saw that I had the opportunity to come to St. John’s I grasped it because I knew it was a rebuilding program and I knew that the city needed something, a college team that they could bounce back on,” said Lawrence, who was the first player to sign with St. John’s following the hiring of coach Norm Roberts in April 2004.
Roberts acknowledges that Lawrence needed to work on his outside shooting and decision making, but says that the sophomore has made great strides in the off-season after playing in all 27 games last year and starting 20.
“Eugene, I call him a pit bull,” Roberts said. “He’s just tough and though he had to improve, he’s had a good summer. I think he gained some valuable experience in his first year playing the point guard position.”
Added Lawrence: “This year my role is going to be almost like a mentor for the new people. I have to be one of the leaders on the team, stay calm and cool and when things go wrong I’ll be there to make sure we stay together like the family we are. Because I’m a little smaller on the court I have to do all the little things.”
With the addition of Anthony Mason, Jr., Ricky Torres, and big men Aaron Spears and Tomas Jasiulionis, the Red Storm has a much deeper squad, a fact which excites Lawrence, and promises to provide more competition for the scrappy guard.
“I know we’re a better team, we have more athleticism, we have more depth,” Lawrence said. “But then again that means nothing unless we come out and play hard every night. That’s the only way we can determine if we’re going to be good or not.”
Lawrence also sees the addition of Taffner Field House as one of the many positive aspects of the rebuilding program.
“You go back into the history of St. John’s, all the great players like Walter Berry, Mark Jackson, they’re the ones who really got this for us and now we have to go out there every night and show it when we play,” said the communications major. “It gives us a lot of inspiration.”