US forward struts stuff to help take win

Otago Nuggets forward Kimani Lawrence puts up a shot despite the attention of Southland Sharks...
Otago Nuggets forward Kimani Lawrence puts up a shot despite the attention of Southland Sharks forward Marcale Lotts at the Edgar Centre on Saturday afternoon. Nuggets team-mate Jack Andrew jostles with Callum McRae to get position for a possible rebound. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Kimani Lawrence was promised some sun.

He has barely seen any of it since arriving a couple of weeks ago.

But the 26-year-old small forward from Providence, Rhode Island is not complaining.

"Back home it is winter right now, so anything is better than what I was just experiencing," he said, beaming.

Lawrence did bring some sunshine of sorts with him, though.

He helped the Nuggets rescue an 86-79 overtime win over the Southland Sharks on Saturday afternoon with his blue-collar brand of basketball.

He banged in 18 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and led the fightback when the Nuggets fell behind and the game looked like it was slipping out of reach.

Ben Henshall (21 points), Jack Andrew (18 points, 16 rebounds) and Matt Bardsley (17 points) all had solid nights.

But it was Lawrence who set the tone. He ran into foul trouble and sat out the second half of the third quarter on four fouls.

While he was off the court, the Nuggets fell behind. But somehow the Arizona State graduate was able to manage his way through the final quarter and overtime without picking up another.

That proved crucial in the final count.

It was not the most polished Nuggets performance. But it was a win and that may count months down the track when the playoff spots are being decided.

"Those type of games early on in the season definitely build character. And I always say I’d rather have those games early in the season than later on because you get to learn a lot about yourselves."

The Nuggets will host the Manawatu Jets in Dunedin tonight.

The Jets are fresh from a 83-70 win over the Sharks in Invercargill on Wednesday night.

Guard Mustapha Heron top-scored with 19 points, and centre Tyrell Harrison posted a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.

They will both present the Nuggets with a stern challenge.

Lawrence is familiar with Heron, as they played against each other at college level, but his main defensive assignment will be to keep Harrison off the boards.

"They play fast and they’ve got some athletes. It will be a fun game and I’m ready to compete," he said.

Lawrence is a utility player in the sense he can defend any position, and he prides himself on that ability. But that kind of versatility tends to ensure you get a tough defensive assignment each week.

"I want to bring some defensive intensity. With the rest of the game, I just let it come to me and try not to force anything. But defence and rebounding are my two main focuses every game."

Star guard Tai Webster has been named in the Nuggets squad.

He was rested for the opening game and was on light duties during yesterday’s training session, but he is expected to suit up and will strengthen the home team considerably.

Edgar Centre, 7.30pm
Tai Webster, Ben Henshall, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly, Kimani Lawrence, Jack Andrew, Darcy Knox, Matt Bardsley, Benji Freeman, Josh Aitcheson, Robbie Coman, Caleb Smiler, Michael Ruske.

Jets: Troy Baxter Jun, Campbell Scott, Mustapha Heron, Tyrell Harrison, Liam Judd, Jonty Kells, Simon Lafaele, Jackson Stent, Lachlan Crate, Dov Silberstein, Lukah Richards.