The National Basketball Federation (NBFTT) and prominent members of the basketball community have come out in praise of the late Shawn Lawrence, praising his contribution to the sport in T&T and deploring the gun violence in the community of Maloney that ended his life just over a week ago.
Lawrence, the 30-year-old Caledonia Clippers player, died hours after being shot near Flamingo Boulevard in Maloney Gardens on the night of Tuesday, August 18. While Lawrence passed at hospital another victim of the drive-by shooting, Shawn Dubarry, died on the scene.
The loss of “Shawny”, a prominent player who was outstanding at power forward or centre, came as “a huge shock, especially due to the manner in which it occurred,” an NBFTT news release stated.
NBFTT president Claire Mitchell did not hold back.
“This is a big blow to basketball and a shocker to me, personally,” she said, adding, “Shawny was an awesome addition to any team, both before and after his injury. His love for the sport was only rivalled by his love for his children and family. My deepest condolences go out to them, his close friends and the entire basketball community.”
According to the federation’s release, the popular basketballer had recently begun selling produce in his neighbourhood, in the vicinity of Building 2 and Flamingo Boulevard where he lived. On that fateful night, Lawrence had reached out to his Caledonia teammates and other friends, inviting them to patronise his new venture. However, support for Lawrence turned to mourning as the killers struck, taking two lives and leaving a reported 19 spent shells at the scene.
Clippers’ team manager Kwesi Antoine was distraught. “This is a big loss to Clippers. The news crushed the members of the club with some even shedding tears,” he confessed, adding, “I remember some years ago when Shawny just came to our club, when one of our top players left. Shawny took the lead and said he will carry the team. That was the mentality he had regarding the Clippers. Shawny is Caledonia Clippers, it is a huge loss for us.”
Apart from the Caledonia club, Lawrence also played with Maloney Pacers, Detour Shak Attack, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and the Millennium Basketball Academy.
In his formative years he was under the guidance of Christopher “Action” Jackson in the Maloney Pacers Club and Youth Development Programme. In a Facebook post, Jackson revealed that Lawrence might well have enjoyed a successful career abroad, had things been different.
“Basketball enthusiasts may not know this but in 2008, at the Eastern Invitational Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball tournament in the United States Shawn Lawrence, representing the International School of Port of Spain under Jamal Duke and Andy Trim, was considered one of the best high school-aged basketball prospects in the tournament along with Derick Caracter, Samardo Samuels, Dexter Strickland and Kemba Walker.
“Most of these top prospects went on to play for high level, major college teams and then professionally in Europe or the NBA. We have lost potentially one who could have been our first locally born bred NBA player.”
NBFTT vice-president, Marketing and Communications Stefan Dillon played for UTT with Lawrence and recalled the big, explosive centre as being quite different when off the court.
“Shawny was a very quiet and reserved individual,” Dillon explained. “However, his explicit display of his natural ability and basketball skills would suggest otherwise. He was considered one of the top players in the country that many believed had the potential to play professionally. His tall stature, high skillset and athletic dexterity made him comparable to an NBA prospect. “His death comes as a major loss to the basketball community as his on-court ability provided spectators with a high degree of entertainment,” Dillon added.
Shak Attack’s head coach Gordon Felix was also hurting from the sudden and violent death of a key player in his team’s 2011 North Zone championship.
“This is a hard death to take,” Felix said. “Shawny was a great player. He was one of the greatest youth players that I have coached. I will miss him daily because even after he left the club, we still corresponded.”
And Felix had some parting advice after hearing the details Lawrence’s slaying.
“I hope that we all learn from this,” he said. “Companionship is the cause of (tragedy in) a lot of young people’s lives and the ones they socialise with.”
Lawrence left to mourn his wife Sparkle-Ann De Four and children Lashawn, Tashawna, Hakeem and Jewel. His funeral service took place on Thursday last at Simpson’s Memorial Limited on Eastern Main Road in Laventille.