I was extremely disappointed to hear that Keon Lawrence will be leaving the University of Missouri.
All season we heard that Keon had been considering moving closer to his home in New Jersey but at the end of the year it appeared that he had fully committed to MU and Mike Anderson. In fact, on Wednesday he sounded very upbeat when talking about this year's group with the Kansas City Star, "This squad, everybody’s about the team,” Lawrence said. “They’re going to give what it takes to win. Whether somebody doesn’t like it or not. They’re here to please the coach."
Keon told the Star that the reason he is transferring is to be closer to home but that was after he had taken a subtle shot at the MU coaching staff earlier in the day when talking to the Columbia Tribune, "It's not my teammates, and it's not the fans. That should tell you something."
He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over the phone that he's not even sure he'll return to school.
Keon's past has been well documented. Gangs were prevalent in his life throughout his childhood and adolescent years. Earlier this year his brother was murdered and his sister is also reportedly deep into the gang life. According to the P-D, Lawrence will move back to Newark with his mother, who abandoned him as a child, to the streets that nearly swallowed him before escaping to Mizzou.
"The people I used to run with know I'm coming back home and I don't know what's going to happen," Lawrence said. "But this might be best for me right now."
I'm not going to pretend to understand Keon's situation or try to say that I know what's best for him. But I can't imagine this being a good decision. Keon appeared to have overcome his past and survived, but his battle could be long from over.
I'm not going to bash him for leaving MU even though it's extremely disappointing. I do think his jab at the coaching staff was a little below the belt. And I'm not taking Anderson's side in this. Anderson could be driving the program deeper into the ground than it already is, we don't know and only time will tell. But if you're going to say something like that about your coach after you leave decide to leave the program you better be prepared to explain exactly what the problem is that you have with him. Don't hint that there was something there the public didn't know about and then refuse to answer any followup questions, which is exactly what Keon did. Either tell-all or don't tell a thing.
But that's really the secondary issue here. Keon's obviously a very troubled young man who's going through a lot of serious problems that most have us couldn't possibly comprehend. I hope he has the wisdom to stay as far away as he possibly can from the people that got him into so much trouble in his high school years.
If you've ever seen Keon in a public setting he always seems to be having a great time. He's a guy who's always the life of the party. It's hard to believe he's been as unhappy as he says he's been.
I've gushed about Keon as a player before and I sincerely believed he was going to be the catalyst that turned the program back around. But it wasn't meant to be. This is a significant blow to the team's Tournament chances next season but that's also besides the point.
Right now this looks like a heartbreaking story. My prayers are with Keon and I hope he's able to find his place, wherever that may be.