Under first-year Head Coach Chris Carlson, the UC San Diego Men’s Basketball team is off to a 9-4 start, its best since moving to NCAA Division II in 2000-01. One of the key components of the Tritons’ rising fortune is sophomore guard Jordan Lawley. The 6-foot-4 Lodi native is averaging 12.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, both more than double his numbers from last year, and hitting at over a 50% clip from three-point range. He’s twice scored 21 points in a game and seems to be hitting his stride as the team, currently tied for second in the conference standings, approaches the midway point of the CCAA schedule. "Jordan is a competitor," says Carlson. "He's also a very good offensive player who can score from a variety of different spots on the floor. His best basketball is ahead of him." Lawley recently took time to talk about his UCSD career to date and what’s behind the Tritons’ excellent early season results.
Q—What did you find was the biggest difference between high school and college basketball?
LAWLEY—Definitely the physical aspect of the game. You go from playing guys who aren’t bigger than 6’3” 200, to playing guys who aren’t smaller than 6’3” 200. And with this drastic turn, the physicality of the game changes tremendously. Everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster. I noticed that as soon as I stepped foot on the court during our first game last year.
Q—From a playing perspective, what changed for you between your freshman and sophomore seasons?
LAWLEY—From my freshman to sophomore year, I would have to say that the only thing that changed was my confidence on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Compared to last year, I find myself shooting the ball with more poise, while also believing that I can stop anyone with my defense.
I would also have to say that the main reason for the change is the positive reinforcement expressed by Coach Carlson in any and every situation—and also the fact that he let me wear a headband this year.
Q—Defense seems to be the foundation of this year’s team. Describe what the team is trying to do defensively and what your role is.
LAWLEY—Defensively, we’re just trying to be the strongest, most aggressive team on the court. I feel that the model for our defensive strategy is that of “team” defense; in order to be successful on that end of the court, we can’t rely on just one person to get a defensive stop. Instead, we stress the fact that EVERYONE must be playing on the same page and with the same intensity.
My role defensively is to frustrate whoever Coach sends me to guard. Whether that means their best guard, or even a post player, my job is to completely shut that person down.
Q—Man-to-man, who is the toughest player on the UCSD for you to go up against in practice?
LAWLEY—I would definitely have to say Shane Poppen. Not only because he has about 20 lbs on me, but the fact that his elbows and knees are so boney and they always seem to hit every possible tender part of your body.
Q—If the team had a one-on-one tournament, who would win? Why?
LAWLEY—I would like to think I would win, but who are we kidding?...Henry (Patterson) would take the cake. The kid is freakishly strong, and all he would have to do is back everyone down in the post and finish with a patented Henry hook shot.
Q—Has there been much difference in the offensive philosophies of last year’s Coach Bill Carr and current Coach Chris Carlson? Explain.
LAWLEY—Yes, there has been a great difference between the offensive philosophies of the two coaches. Last year, we played a more passive Princeton offense, running down the shot clock to the final seconds before we took a shot.
This year, Coach Carlson has given us an offense that I feel has been able to exploit our athleticism. Under Coach Carlson, we typically run an aggressive offense where we are always looking to score. Whether that be in transition, or in a set offense, we are being instructed to be ready to shoot/drive whenever the opportunity strikes. Personally, it’s the way I like to play the game of basketball.
Q—What was the team’s best overall offensive game this season? Why?
LAWLEY—To tell you the truth, I honestly don't believe we’ve had our best overall offensive game this season. With the talent we have, and in lieu of our past performances, there's no doubt in my mind that we are capable of so much more on the offensive end of the court.
However, with that being said, if I had to choose a game where we did our best offensively, it would be our loss at Humboldt State. In this game, we shot somewhere around 60% from the field, and it seemed as if we ran our offense flawlessly because we were getting shots whenever and wherever we wanted.
Q—What basic philosophies does Coach Carlson preach the most?
LAWLEY—Coach Carlson has hit us with quite a few philosophies but the one that he really stresses is that we "respect everyone, but fear no one."
Q—Does having a vocal, supportive crowd at RIMAC Arena make a difference to the team?
LAWLEY—I think our record can be a testimony to that. I have been extremely impressed with the number of fans and support that we've gotten so far compared to last season; and if our undefeated record at home doesn't prove that the sixth man really matters, then I don't know what does.
Q—On this year’s squad, who is the team personality, who is the “brain”
academically, who is the fashion star?
LAWLEY—I would have to say that the team's personality can be put on the shoulders of the "boog" fam—consisting of Alan Husted, Pat Dreith, Bryce Alvari, and myself.
The "brain" of the group would have to be Clint Allard.
The fashion star would probably have to go to Andrew Hatch—but there's some room for debate (laugh).
Q—Speaking of fashion, why the headband?
LAWLEY—To tell you the truth, there's hardly any fashion statement behind the headband beside the fact that I always match the color depending on whether we're home or away. Other than that, I mostly wear it because it's kind of like my comfort item. I've worn a headband since my freshman year of high school, and ever since then it feels awkward whenever I don't have it on.
Q—Does being left-handed provide any type of advantage?
LAWLEY—I think being left-handed definitely has more pros than cons. For instance, a lefty's shot seems a little more fluid and clean than that of a righthander.
However, I feel my real advantage lies in the ability to use both hands equally off the dribble. It's a lot easier for other teams to prepare to guard a lefty, but when you have a lefty who uses his right hand just as much as his left, then there is an advantage.
Q—What can you tell us about your hometown of Lodi, CA?
LAWLEY—A fun fact, and probably one of the most interesting things about Lodi, is that we have a song named after it called "Stuck in Lodi" (Credence Clearwater Revival). Other than that, Lodi is pretty much a small town where everyone knows everyone, and your daily activities are limited; but, at the same time, I wouldn't trade growing up there for anything, and I can definitely see myself moving back there in the future.
Q—Who is going to win the Presidential election this fall?
LAWLEY—While I would like to see a Republican like Mike Huckabee take the office in the upcoming election, I believe that the country will be desperate for a Democratic candidate—due to our society's view of Bush.
Q—What is UCSD’s potential in the CCAA? What will it take to make the CCAA Tournament? What would that mean?
LAWLEY—Potentially, I feel we have the skill and ability to finish either first or second in the CCAA. In order to do this, and to make the CCAA Tournament, all we have to do is keep playing like we've been lately—respecting everyone, but fearing no one. If this happens, I believe it will give us the respect we deserve in our conference, while at the same time establishing a larger, more constant fan base.