It is with great sadness that I post that Hall of Fame basketball great Edmund Lawrence has died. Ed played for McNeese in the early 1970’s and was on the first teams to play at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Lawrence was our first seven footer, and probably our most celebrated recruit in history. I was at McNeese when the Cowboys were recruiting the Boston High School star. Somehow I got caught right in the middle of the recruiting of Edmund, more from association with a point guard that McNeese was also recruiting from Welsh, Louisiana. It is a long story, so we will skip the dramatics, but Ed was a sweetheart of a guy. He was courted by Dale Brown of LSU, Scotty Robinson at LaTech, Guy V. Lewis at Houston, and Beryl Shipley at USL.
Signing day was one of the strangest stories I have ever seen in basketball recruiting. Most of the ‘real story” never was made to the public, but those twelve hours of drama were unbelievable. Bill Reigel had worked very hard on bringing in a recruiting class that would be in the Top 10 in the USA. Edmund would be the equivalent of a 4 or 5 star recruit in those days. In a bit of irony, Louisiana had two seven footers that year with the other being at Woodlawn of Shreveport(Robert Parish). McNeese had a commitment from Edmund that he would sign on signing day, but USL swept in and kidnapped him. The MSU staff was panicking while trying to locate Ed before he did something stupid. Edmund was from Crowley, so he moved to Lake Charles to live with his sister . Because I knew Edmund fairly well at the time, I got some ‘extras” on the side from a certain assistant coach in Louisiana to provide visits to his home. Very few knew where he lived, so I provided that service.
Signing Day morning Edmund was gone. We found out later thru tips that USL had him in Lafayette and he signed with them. Yes, it is true. When MSU coaches were able to get in contract with Edmund, he told them he was coerced into signing. Ed was such a good guy he didnot want to disappoint anyone, particularly the three schools that spent the most time with him(Tech, USL, MSU). Lets just say that we were able to get another contract signed with an earlier time and the rest is history. First of all, in those days there were no computers and no national attention. Entrance requirements were much more difficult as to conference and NLI rules. In other words, Edmund and Robert both could not get into LSU. The illegal recruiting was so prevalent that it was an unwritten rule in Louisiana that what happens in Louisiana, stays in Louisiana. The University of Houston fit nicely into that equation because they were getting their fair shake of Louisiana superstars. Therefore, USL didnot make a stink about challenging McNeese’s version of the story. Their closet was full of skeletons that they eventually were shutdown over.
For whatever reason, fans expected more from Edmund that he could deliver. Looking back at that era, the guy was fantastic with his blocked shots, his 12 or 13 rebounds per game and near 20 points per game. Just think what it would have been like if dunking was legal in those days. His signing class including 6’9 4-star recruit Stanley Sly of Pittsburg(Reigel’s contact), Richard Carmichael(6’9) of Clearwater, Florida, Bertel Reeder of Lake Charles, Gary Thibodeaux of Welsh, and one or two others. John Rudd(6’9) signed with LSU, but later transferred to McNeese. Ditto David Wallace who had played at Baylor. Henry Ray was already at McNeese at the time. It was an unbelievable team the last couple of years with Edmund. Of course, we never got Carmichael or Sly into school. In fact, Sly is the reason we got put on probation. Edmund could have gone to many schools, but he liked playing in front of Lake Charles fans. If he was bitter, it never showed. His brother David was an unbelievable player that was heavily recruited, but signed with McNeese. Ed’s nephew, Martin Yokum, also went through the same experience with USL, but this time Marty Fletcher of USL was the coach that was running around Lake Charles trying to find Martin.
Rest in Peace in “Big E”.
I watched several interviews with SEC coaches at the SEC Media Day production. I think if I could invite three coaches to lunch, it would be Mark Reicht from Georgia, Bret Bielema of Arkansas, and Gus Malzahn of Auburn. These are very high character guys and are personable. If Kevin Sumlin would promise me a ride in his “Swagmobile” chopper, he would be included as well. I love Spurrier and Saban as coaches, but they are just too high strung for me and too intense.
I want to mention Bret Bielema because he preached a very good sermon at Hoover. I have always said that if you understand the place you play in the recruiting game, better decisions would be made. I have searched and googled many recruits over the years, and it is shocking what many of these kids have posted on the Internet. I know few of you will disagree with me, especially the more liberal readers. You will suggest that privacy laws, individual expression, amendment rights, etc. are all reasons why a coach should not check out a high school seniors Facebook or Twitter account. Bret Bielema has GA’s specially assigned to research all the kids that are on his “recruiting list”. I think this is smart.
In the days that I was coaching summer league baseball in South Lake Charles, we would have a tryout day in which 100 or so kids would go through a battery of skill test in order to be drafted by the managers of the league. If you were not taken, you went down to the minor league teams. It was fun to choose your own players because you did have a choice of what kind of guys you had on your team. I took that job very seriously because I was doing it for fun and I didn’t want problems on my team. Just imagine if you could hand select the 30 students for your classroom. Would you rule out classroom behavior and respect for teachers as a criteria? Not on my watch! So when I selected my players, I knew almost 80% of the parents, several being coaches at McNeese. It was a pleasure to coach these guys and not only were they winners, but they had been taught right.
So Coach Bielema thinks that he also has that right to screen who he wants on his team. I have been to several Facebook and Twitter accounts for recruits and it is mind-boggling if you are not accustomed to being around young people. I have so it is not shocking, but it does give you clues to overall character in my opinion. I just think that parents are not that involved if their 16-17 yr. old have post of porn, hip hop with very viral lyrics, and photos of inappropriate behavior. I do understand young people and I know that immaturity and environment play a big part, but these are clues that a coach can use. Bielema says Arkansas will not recruit players who show signs of violence, disrespect, and drug use on the Internet. God Bless him. I just think you are asking for trouble by putting weed on your Facebook page or pictures of you urinating on a tied up friend. I have seen it all and it is very disturbing how parents and relatives have no idea what is being posted. Young women cannot appreciate their boyfriends bragging on twitter about using the F word and others to describe a date.
In my opinion, screening the guys who will play for you over the next five years is not a bad idea. Everyone makes mistakes in recruiting because we want to believe the best of young people. But Bielema told the media that “you recruit your problems”. If you are still offering a senior that has robbed a store, hit a teacher, or hit a cop, you know what you are getting. The three guys that have left LSU in the past two weeks all had redflags among recruiting gurus around the nation. It is great to get the #1 or #5 class on Feb. 5th, but you are inheriting these problems. Clifton Garrett was a 5-star LB out of Ohio that signed two years ago. Everyone nationally were asking why did no Big 10 team offer him. The truth was he could not get into ONE Big Ten school. When someone manipulates high school transcripts and somehow get a kid not prepared for college, you end up with someone like Garrett who did not go to class.
Travonte Valentine was a 5-star DT out of Miami, but he had questionable grades when he signed with Les Miles. In fact, many questioned whether he would prop. Low and behold he never got cleared to play, caused problems, and then flunked completely out. The other DT had so many redflags in Texas that it took going out of state to give him a second chance. Is there any wonder that with two weeks of being on campus he turned violent and threw his fist through a weight room mirror slashing his tendons in his arm. He missed the season. Is it a shock that he was arrested with a stolen bike on campus, but that was swept under the rug. Then last month he choked his girlfriend.
Bielema has a point. We will clean up the sport whenever coaches and institutions start requiring tougher requirements for the privileged to get a $70,000 free ride at a big time college. Now that many of these guys will be paid employees receiving $3000 a semester in cash, can’t we require a resume and interview like a company would require?