The Tar Heels' merriest prankster is highly serious about getting them to the Final Four
During last season's NCAA tournament, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said that his starting point guard, Tywon Lawson, was the team's Dennis the Menace. The comic-strip character is a renowned tornado of trouble, and Lawson is a 5' 11" whirlwind who averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 assists as a freshman. But the real similarity, insists Mr. Wilson -- er, Williams -- is that Lawson "is like a little kid who does things just to see your reaction."
Indeed, life as a Tar Heel offers Lawson the opportunity not only to run an elite basketball team at breakneck speed -- the Heels were the fastest team to make the NCAAs, averaging 73.1 possessions per game -- but also to wreak havoc behind the scenes. "I don't like people to be bored in the locker room," he says. Says backup point guard Bobby Frasor, whose pale arms Lawson likes to slap so he can admire the resulting handprint, "If you were to just scratch Ty, he'd probably break something on you." Coaches aren't immune from Lawson's pranks -- he has hidden Williams's Sprite during film sessions -- and neither are fans. At a team banquet in April, Lawson announced he was leaving for the NBA, then paused before telling a silenced crowd he was kidding.
There was a serious reason for Lawson to return to Chapel Hill. With him at the helm, the Heels are well-positioned to win the national championship. Williams thinks Lawson played his best basketball at the end of 2006-07; over his final 16 games Lawson had a brilliant 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Coming out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy in '05, Lawson wanted to play alongside fellow Maryland native Kevin Durant and even briefly considered withdrawing his commitment to UNC. Instead he happily ended up with this year's preseason Wooden Award favorite, 6' 9" forward Tyler Hansbrough, who Lawson says is "the hardest worker I've ever seen -- ever."
With forward Deon Thompson poised to have a breakout year in place of departed lottery pick Brandan Wright, Williams has already said the Heels can play faster than they did last season. This year Lawson should lead the sprint to San Antonio. "Anything less," he says, "and it'll be a wasted season." -- Luke Winn
Issue date: November 19, 2007