Friday, February 16, 2007

Durant No. 1? Lawson says it's possible

This cover story in this week’s Sports Illustrated (the edition separate from the swimsuit issue) proclaims Texas forward Kevin Durant one of the nation’s top player of the year candidates even though he’s just a freshman.

Ty Lawson, the North Carolina freshman point guard and former teammate of Durant’s at Oak Hill Academy, said he’s not surprised by his best friend’s success.
“I knew it was coming,” Lawson said. “I used to tell everybody last year that he was the best player in the country.”

Durant, who is averaging 24.9 points and 11.4 rebounds, communicates with Lawson almost every day. Earlier this week, they each put two new photographs of themselves up on their Facebook sites and joked about how ugly the old ones were.

Lawson said Durant developed outstanding guard skills in his early teens, when he was only about 6-foot-2. When Durant suddenly grew seven inches, he still had those guard skills and became nearly impossible to guard away from the basket at 6-foot-9.

Throughout high school, 7-foot center Greg Oden of Indianapolis, who’s now a freshman at Ohio State, was rated the top player in their class. Oden was considered a virtual lock to be the No. 1 pick if he enters the NBA draft after this season.

But Durant has been so impressive that he is being talked about as a possible alternative to Oden at No. 1.

“Everybody said Oden was the No. 1 player,” Lawson said, “and (Durant) has been working to get No. 1. He’s always been working toward it.”

Lawson also could be a high NBA draft pick some day, but said he plans to return to college for next season. He said he would have to be projected as a top-five pick in order to consider leaving North Carolina after this season.

“Once you go to the NBA, that’s all the stuff you’re going to be worried about,” Lawson said. “Traveling and all that stuff. Eight-two games. It’s crazy. I’m a little too young.”

-- Ken Tysiac