Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
SHU's Lawrence Withdraws Waiver Request; James Madison Beat Pirates
**James Madison knocked off Seton Hall, 70-64, tonight. See below for a running account of the game.
Keon Lawrence has withdrawn his request for an NCAA waiver and will not suit up for Seton Hall this year, according to his adviser, Alif Muhammad.
Muhammad said the NCAA notified Lawrence that it would not decide on his waiver until Jan. 5, meaning Lawrence could not suit up until at least the Jan. 6 home game against Villanova.
“We withdrew the request,” Muhammad, the head of the Alif Muhammad NIA School in Newark, said Monday by phone. “The NCAA did not want to make a decision until Jan. 5, 2009. The rule was that the NCAA has three weeks to make the decision from the date [the waiver request] was filed on Dec. 18 and they wanted all of it.”
Muhammad said Seton Hall did not file the waiver request until December because Lawrence had some academic work to make up after transferring from Missouri. It was initially filed Dec. 12, he said, but then the NCAA asked additional questions, pushing the filing date back to Dec. 18.
Muhammad said he and Lawrence had notified the Seton Hall staff of the withdrawal and also emailed the compliance people at Seton Hall to notify them of the decision.
Seton Hall had no official comment and said it had not spoken with Lawrence on the matter and planned to do so when the team returns to campus Tuesday. Lawrence is not with the team in Virginia for tonight’s James Madison game.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Lawrence, a Newark native who transferred from Missouri, will have two years of eligibility left beginning next year. Herb Pope, who transferred from New Mexico State, was previously denied an NCAA waiver to play this year and will also suit up next year.
“Keon is an incredible recruit for us,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said previously. “He has a huge name in the state of New Jersey and he’s coming back home to Newark. He can play the 1 and the 2. He’s a natural scorer and really an electrifying, exciting player that the fans are just going to love. When he decided to transfer, everyone in the country wanted him, but he chose us. I think that really says something about where we’re headed as a program.”
Without Lawrence and Melvyn Oliver, who was previously ruled academically ineligible for this season, Seton Hall will have just eight scholarship players for this year. Senior forward John Garcia is also dealing with a knee injury and sat out the IUPUI game on Saturday. His status going forward remains unclear.
Lawrence sought a hardship waiver because of family issues I detailed in this story.
“He was ready to go today [at James Madison],” Muhammad said of Lawrence.
Without clearance now, Lawrence would have missed tonight’s game, the FDU game Dec. 27 and the Dec. 30 Big East opener at Syracuse.
“If he got back on the non-conference dates, he would have had a chance to get back in playing shape,” Muhammad said. “If he came back on the Villanova game on Jan. 6, it would take three games to get himself ready. It wouldn’t be fair to the kid. He would be playing half the season. He was willing to do it if he could play [all] the conference games.
“You’re going to jump in there against Villanova? It doesn’t make any sense. It might’ve helped the team later, but the kid loses a whole year.
“He said, ‘Let’s sit.’ His mother said, ‘Let’s sit.'”
JAMES MADISON 70, SETON HALL 64
James Madison nearly blew a 21-point first-half lead but held on to beat the Pirates 70-64 on the Dukes’ home floor.
The Pirates lost for the second game in a row and are now 8-3. JMU improved to 7-4 and avenged last year’s loss, in which the Dukes blew an 18-point lead in Newark.
“I’m thrilled that we have the win but we have a long ways to go,” JMU coach Matt Brady said. “We’re trying to get better. “We’re going to make a lot of efforts but it’s good to go home for Christmas with a ‘W’ in your pocket.”
Seton Hall had not lost to a Colonial Athletic Association opponent since March off 1999 when it fell to Old Dominion.
Seton Hall sophomore Robert Mitchell led all scorers with 23 points, Eugene Harvey added 14 and Jeremy Hazell and Paul Gause scored 12 apiece.
“Hazell is a terrific player,” Brady said. “He’s going to be a second-team All-Big East performer I would think. I thought Robert Mitchell made two key 3-pointers and that kept them within arm’s length.
“But they’re not a terrific shooting team. Give them credit for their quickness in getting to the rim.”
Senior forward Juwann James had 14 points and six rebounds for JMU. Kyle Swanston scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. Julius Wells added 11 points.
“James was a presence down low and he made the shots,” Brady said.
After James Madison led by 21 points in the first half, Seton Hall took a 56-55 lead, its first of the game, with 7:05 remaining.
James ofJMU hit two foul shots with three minutes remaining to give the Dukes back the lead at 61-59.
Gause answered with a 3-pointer to give Seton Hall a 62-61 edge with 2:24 left.
Swanston then hit a 3 for the Dukes to take a 64-62 lead.
Mitchell tied it with 1:24 left with a shot off the glass to make it 64-all.
Wells hit two foul shots for a 66-64 lead.
Andrey Semenov was then fouled after grabbing a defensive rebound off a miss by Hazell.
Semenov, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Russia whose parents flew in from St. Petersburg, Russia to watch the game, then made 1-of-2 to extend the lead to 67-64 with 37 seconds left.
Harvey missed a floater, and Swanston was fouled by Seton Hall with 27.4 seconds remaining.
Swanston made 1-0f-2 to push the lead to 68-64.
Hazell missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds, and Jordan Theodore fouled Devon Moore on the ensuing possession.
Moore hit both free throws for a 70-64 lead.
Hazell missed another 3-pointer down the stretch.
Seton Hall was 8 of 26 from beyond the arc.
The Dukes were 24 of 31 from the line, while Seton Hall was 8 of 10.
The Dukes out-rebounded Seton Hall 41-28, and outscored them 26-3 from the bench.
The Pirates return home Saturday to face Fairleigh Dickinson before opening Big East play at Syracuse Dec. 30.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.