Less than a week before the Missouri men’s basketball team is set to open its season, it lost yet another guard to a foot injury.
Freshman Keon Lawrence is expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering a stress fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his left foot.
Guard Glen Dandridge is also sidelined with a broken bone in his right foot. But unlike Dandridge, Lawrence’s injury will not require surgery. Instead, the athletic freshman will wear a protective boot.
Lawrence thought his foot was just sore for the past couple days, but doctors told him an X-ray Sunday night revealed otherwise.
“I was upset,” Lawrence said. “Real upset. I didn’t want to hear those words. ‘Four to six weeks.’”
Just one day after hearing the news, Lawrence sat on the bleachers with an ice pack on his injured foot during Monday’s practice. While taking questions from reporters, the usually upbeat, energetic guard tried to hide his disappointment about the injury. Lawrence was more eager to talk about his comeback.
“I have to work to get back,” Lawrence said. “I have to do what I can and hurry up and get back on the floor to help my team. It hurt, but I have to work hard every day to get back.”
The positive attitude Lawrence brings to the Tigers, along with his infectious smile, is quickly making him well-liked by his teammates, even the guards he’s been competing with for playing time.
“I was in study hall when I found out, so I couldn’t really react. But when I saw him and when I talked to him, I was mad,” guard Stefhon Hannah said.
“He was really mad when he found out. I heard him in the other room and he was crying and stuff. It hurt him. His first year, a freshman, can’t get to play his first game. That’s pretty disappointing.”
Lawrence’s speed will be greatly missed by the Tigers. Claiming he “almost always” finishes first in sprinting drills, Lawrence refers to himself as the flashy player to fit right into coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system.
“If I don’t finish first, then I’m not running hard enough,” Lawrence said after a practice last week.
Although a freshman, Lawrence figures to be one of the Tigers’ top scoring options this season. He showed his offensive skills in high school, scoring more than 31 points per game during his senior season. But Anderson also acknowledged the dedication Lawrence has shown to improve his defense in preseason practices.
“It’s unfortunate for him, because he’s been working extremely hard,” Anderson said. “I thought he was really making the adjustment to college basketball. We know offensively he’s done some things from a high school standpoint. Defensively, I thought he was really starting to make the transition.
“But we are the ultimate team, so that means someone else is going to have the opportunity to step up and showcase what their capable of doing.”
The team’s top three guards, juniors Jason Horton and Hannah and freshman J.T. Tiller, figure to see an increase in playing time. But that doesn’t make the news of Lawrence’s injury any easier for Tiller to hear.
“It was more bitter than sweet because that’s my man on and off the court,” Tiller said. “That’s my friend, first and foremost. When I see him hurt, it hurts me. We’re both freshman, so we’re coming into this together.
“But he’s a tough guy, so I know he’s going to bounce back quick.”
Hannah said most of his conversations with Lawrence have been focused on Lawrence’s recovery.
“I’ve been talking to him, and he’s been good about it,” Hannah said. “I told him to stick to it. Come back stronger.”