Basketball star arrested
When Pirates head coach Bobby Gonzalez announced in Sept. 2008 that Keon Lawrence had transferred to Seton Hall, he called the guard “…an electrifying, exciting player that the fans are just going to love.”
But the chance for Lawrence to back up his coach’s claim is now on hold – indefinitely.
Lawrence has been suspended from the team without a timetable for return, as announced on Tuesday afternoon by Gonzalez.
The decision followed Lawrence’s arrest early Monday morning on charges of driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license.
The 22-year-old was driving his Chevy Equinox the wrong way in the express lanes on the Garden State Parkway in Sayreville when he collided with 56-year-old Kenneth Smith of Newark, according to the New Jersey State Police reports.
Both were treated for non-life threatening injuries at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, but the Associated Press story said that Lawrence did suffer severe cuts to his face.
The Star-Ledger reported on Wednesday that the blood-alcohol test results had not returned from the lab run by the state police.
“First and foremost, we are relieved and gratified that all of the parties involved were not more seriously injured,” Gonzalez said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will respond accordingly when all of the facts of this matter have been collected. Effective immediately, Keon Lawrence has been suspended from the team indefinitely.”
Lawrence has hired Clifford Minor, current Newark mayoral candidate, as his lawyer, according to a family friend as reported in the Star-Ledger.
The Seton Hall student-athlete handbook classifies “arrest with possible conviction of Driving While Intoxicated” as a “Class 1 Violation.”
The sanctions for such violations include immediate suspension from athletic competition with Seton Hall for up to a year.
Additional sanctions include mandatory participation in a substance abuse counseling program and potential revocation of the athlete’s “grant-in” aid for a year.
Any violations of the alcohol policy are cumulative throughout the career of a student-athlete at Seton Hall, meaning another similar violation by Lawrence would lead to a permanent ban from the university’s athletic program.
Also significant is that the incident happened just days before the men’s basketball regular season opener, vs. St. Peter’s on Friday, at the Prudential Center in Lawrence’s hometown of Newark.
Students spoke of the incident in regards to how it affects the team moving forward.
“I think it’s a surprising blow in a bad way to start a season with expectations,” senior Tim Dooley said. “It takes away one of the guards that would contribute to the system style that Bobby Gonzalez runs.”
Junior Nicholas Popoli said he hopes the loss of Lawrence doesn’t affect the team.
“It’s tough losing a key player like that but, with all of the other recruits and transfers and the fact that we only played with eight guys last year, I think we should be okay,” Popoli said.
Seton Hall alumnus and ESPN sportscaster Bob Ley spoke of the situation in terms of the reputation of the university.
“Speaking as an alum, representing the school properly is more important than wins and losses,” Ley said. “If the facts are proven to be as they have been reported, it is very, very serious.”
The Kansas Jayhawks, No. 1 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today college basketball preseason polls, have also dealt with a similar off-the-court issue.
Kansas guard Brady Morningstar, also a junior, was suspended by head coach Bill Self for the entire first semester after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on Oct. 3, according to the Associated Press.
However, teammate Chase Buford received a lighter punishment after he entered a diversion agreement following a similar drunken-driving charge.
He was ordered to pay $802 in fees, is not allowed to consume alcohol or drugs for a year, and must undergo substance abuse treatment, according to the Lawrence, Kan. prosecutor’s office. There are no reports that Buford will miss any Kansas games.
Similar to the Jayhawks, Seton Hall competes in a college basketball power conference, also magnifying the loss of any key player.
The Setonian attempted to contact both the NCAA and the Big East Conference for comment, but messages were not returned.
Lawrence would not be available to comment on the situation according to Seton Hall Athletic Communications.
Additionally, Gonzalez will not comment past the statement released on Tuesday and Athletic Director Joseph Quinlan has not made any statement to the media regarding the incident or Lawrence’s suspension.
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