There is always “The Next” in sports. In the state of Georgia, whispers of the next Dwight Howard have begun. Riverdale High School forward Gani Lawal, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound prospect from the class of 2007, has been tabbed as the next great big man to come out of the Peach State. Evidence by the high major programs already involved with the youngster helps support the case.
Lawal started his season last year at a small local tournament. Also in the field was Howard. So were 20 or so scouts and the NBA’s Director of Scouting Marty Blake. Howard dominated the field but quietly, Lawal emerged as one of the bright young players in the state last year.
In one game, he put back an offensive rebound for a dunk, tying the game and eventually put his Riverdale team into overtime. Lawal went on to score 10 points, grab five rebounds and block three shots and helped claim the victory. From there, his game grew.
Lawal, the No. 14 ranked player in the sophomore class by Rivals.com, averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and just over two blocks a game as a freshman and shot 65% from the field. After a solid summer, Lawal is ready to show his improvements, says Riverdale head coach David Boyd.
“He is so much more improved this year,” Boyd said. “He’s got range on his shot and he’s knocking down the three-point shot. He’s really got a chance to be really special. Scoring, rebounding, defense, he’s really doing everything now.
“He used to run up the court for dunks on breakaways. Now he’s going straight up from a standstill and that comes from getting stronger and more mature both physically and mentally. He’s sharp.”
With 20 plus pounds added to his frame, Lawal is beginning to do things that have people calling him the next Howard in Atlanta. And like Howard, it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on the humble youngster. Neither does all of the attention from college recruiters.
Georgia and Georgia Tech both came in to see Lawal in an open gym. So did Alabama, Clemson, DePaul and others. With all of the coaches coming by, Boyd decided to ask Lawal what schools he wanted to be recruited by. Lawal’s answer?
“He told me that he’d like to be recruited by Georgia, Georgia Tech, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky,” Boyd said. For Gani, he’s looking at the really good academic schools and all of the schools that have impressive coaches. Those schools fit that.”
The two home state schools have offered a scholarship as have Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson and DePaul have offered a scholarship as well, according to Boyd. Lawal has unofficially visited Alabama and will make an unofficial to Duke on Oct. 30. More are coming.
Becoming “The Next” isn’t something Lawal is too worried about. According to Boyd, he’s more concerned with being Gani instead.