Georgia Tech’s Gani Lawal has decided to leave school and enter June’s NBA Draft.
Lawal, a 6-9 junior from Norcross, averaged 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds a game last season.
“I just feel like I’m ready to move on,” Lawal said. “I think I got the team to the next level.”
Lawal led the Yellow Jackets (23-13) to the championship game of the ACC tournament and second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
He said he’s going to finish this semester and then begin working out to prepare for the NBA draft on June 24 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Lawal ranked third in the ACC in rebounding and 14th in scoring to earn third-team All-ACC honors for the second consecutive season.
“His effort and productivity this year was probably the main reason we were able to get to the NCAA tournament,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “He’s a guy that gives great effort. He’s got a great motor. That’s one thing he’ll miss. We’ll miss his scoring and rebounding.”
Lawal informed Hewitt on Tuesday that he was leaning toward going pro. Hewitt said he told him to think about it for a couple of days to make sure. Hewitt said he hasn’t spoken this week to freshman Derrick Favors, a projected lottery pick if he leaves school, about the NBA.
Lawal entered his name into the NBA Draft last season but then withdrew. He said the decision this time was much easier.
“I wasn’t really sure last year,” he said. “This year I’m a lot more certain of myself. Last year, I was kind of testing the waters. I wasn’t really quite sure. Coming back this year, playing, improving and expanding my game, learning the game and playing it the right way.”
He said that Hewitt’s decision to withdraw his name from the St. John’s coaching search didn’t factor into his decision because he never thought Hewitt would actually leave.
Lawal’s mother, Michelle, said she supports her son’s decision.
“At this point in his life, he knows what’s better for him than I do,” she said. “I’m just mom and that’s what we are here for. After you raise your kids and give them the nurturing that they need you just pray that they follow the way.”
Lawal will return to Tech to finish his management degree. His parents have said that education always comes first. Lawal said he understands that and will honor a promise he made to his parents to finish school. But until then he’s going to try improve his game and draft status. He said it’s too early to tell where he may be selected. NBAdraft.net projects him to go 19th to San Antonio.
“I know I have a lot to work on, but I’m prepared to approach it,” Lawal said. ” Once I do get drafted, that’s where it starts. The journey starts there.”