After heart problem last season, Lawson ready to go for 2009-10

November 12, 2009


In an early season women’s exhibition contest, the Western Michigan University men’s basketball team sat in the student section to show their support.

Among the players from the men’s team sitting in the crowd was starting center, Don Lawson. After hearing a freshman on the squad complain about his knee and foot problems hindering him from playing defense, Lawson quickly cut him off.

“I could have given up when my heart was messed up, so that’s no excuse,” Lawson said.

Lawson was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as afib, in early January last season, which left doctors doubtful if he would return for the remainder of the season. Afib is a disorder where the heart’s two small upper chambers quiver instead of effectively beating, causing the blood not to pump completely out of them, potentially causing clotting. This disorder is found in over 2 million Americans.

Instead of quitting and feeling down on himself after hearing this news, he kept a positive outlook. Fighting through an injury, in a sense, would be easy for WMU’s eighth leader in career blocked shots.

“I was just talking to my coaches and family back at home and I just can’t be a mental midget,” Lawson said.“A mental midget is someone who keeps going on about these injuries they have, and to have a heart injury takes a lot of work, so just being focused on trying to stay positive is the one major thing. And when they told me I could play again was just a joyous occasion.”

When Lawson returned to the Bronco lineup in February, after missing nearly a month of action, the 6 foot 10, 245-pound Chicago native gave a valiant effort to pick back up where he left off. He finished the season averaging 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, which ranked him sixth in the MAC in blocks per game.

“Donald was really playing well at the point of time we lost him last year, and when he came back he was close to regaining his form at the end of the season but he wasn’t quite there,” WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said.
“Now to have him back I think he’s gonna be comfortable, because last year was his first year as a starter so I think he’s gonna be comfortable with his role there, and I think he’s gonna be comfortable with being healthy. So I think everything is leaning in the direction of him having a productive year.”

Lawson’s return to the lineup at full strength not only has his head coach excited, but his teammates as well.

“Last year we struggled a lot with our inside presence and our team was guard-orientated so it made it tough on people like Shawntese [Gary] and David Kool because by not having nobody in the inside everybody cheated out,” senior guard Martelle McLemore said. “By Don being back he can provide that post presence so they gotta play us honest both ways which is exactly what we need for us guards.”

This offseason, Lawson has been working on his game harder than ever as he seeks to lead WMU to a Mid-American Conference championship in his senior season.

After having to watch his team struggle with implementing a host of new pieces to the roster last season, Lawson plans to rejuvenate the organization while putting the team on his back.

“I’m just trying to straighten them out and get them prepared for this experience that they’re getting ready to go through,” Lawson said.
“It gets intense real fast and some of the pressures and game situations, you can’t recreate them so we have to make the practices way harder than the games.”

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