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Senior Spotlight: Lawrence Russell

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Senior Spotlight: Lawrence Russell

Lawrence Russell running out at Westmont game.

Lawrence Russell running out at Westmont game.

Darcy Brown

Lawrence Russell running out at Westmont game.

Darcy Brown

Darcy Brown

Lawrence Russell running out at Westmont game.

Alicia Thompson, Sports Editor

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To most, the 6-foot-4-inch graduating senior on the Mustangs men’s basketball team may seem a little intimidating. A communications major and a beast on the court, Lawrence Russell has been a part of the Master’s community and men’s basketball team for the past two years and will be graduating from TMU this year.

Russell earned All-GSAC Conference Defensive Player of the Year and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors in the 2016-17 season, as well as a starting position in every game. One of the most complete and versatile players on the team. Russell was named Division I First Team All-American by the NAIA and 2018 GSAC Player of the Year this past season.

While nearly every Mustang fan can recognize Russell’s skills just by watching him play, far fewer know Russell personally or can attribute to how far he has come apart from the jersey.

WEST COAST ROOTS AND HOOPS

Russell is from Port Townsend,Washington and transferred to Master’s for the 2016 season. In Washington, he played for the Red Devils of  Lower Columbia Community College, starting every game.

But long before that, Russell was playing ball. Starting when he was four, he found a solace in the sport that continues to influence his life even now.

“It’s changed my life,” Russell said. “Coming from my background, I didn’t have a lot to look forward to, and I found a sanctuary on the basketball court. I could get away from everything. It was like my first love.”

Russell played three years for the Elsinore High School Tigers in Wildomar, California. He excelled on the team, and while he was there, his coaches introduced Russell to God.

“In high school, I was going through a lot,” Russell said. “My coaches took me to church and showed God to me. Apart from basketball, they helped me get more grounded and got me back on track. Even now, we still keep in contact, and I’m going to see them in couple weeks.”

It was Russell’s previous coaches that helped him find TMU and Coach Starr after his two years at Lower Columbia. Although he hesitated at first, Russell grew to love playing for TMU and being a part of the team.

“It’s definitely helped me grow as a person and become closer to God,” Russell said. “I’ve grown spiritually and emotionally here. It’s helped me grow up in a lot of ways.”

MEMORIES AS A MUSTANG

Although Russell was only a member of the Mustangs for two years, he helped his team win back to back GSAC championships, set new records and make it to Nationals.

Apart from the basketball aspect of the tournaments, Russell says just hanging out with the team and spending time together was worthwhile.

“The team was awesome, a joy to be around. It felt like we had been playing together for years. New recruits transitioned well. It was really cool to see how everyone came together and meshed,” Russell said. “I’ll really miss being around the team, but I always have an open door policy. My number’s always there and my door is always open if they ever need anything.”

Russell says that part of his positive experience at TMU can certainly be attributed to the Mustang’s coaching staff, Head Coach, Kelvin Starr and Assistant Coach, Thomas Lowery.

“Coach Starr has always been like a father figure to me,” Russell said. “He’s like my second dad, and I can depend on him for anything. He’s helped me mature and grow on and off the court.”

Russell’s relationship with his coaches has been mutually beneficial, as he lead the team as captain this past year.

“Throughout the year, we have experienced a quiet leadership from Lawrence that never swayed when he stepped on the court. He always lead by example,” says Lowery.  “We felt comfortable allowing him to be the leader of our team, but he never asked for it or demanded it. That’s one of the greatest things you can do coming from the system. I can relate to him in many ways. He is strong in spite of everything he’s been through. He could have had many excuses, but he didn’t. He always came to work ready to play hard. He really felt that his leadership was needed. He fought through pain and nagging injury and still succeeded.”

Lowery and Russell share a similar background, and the two have been able to relate through their past, as well as their love for basketball.

“He never used his life story as a crutch; he used it to help him. On the surface, he’s a great person and an incredibly humble guy,” says Lowery. “When you know him, you appreciate him. When you realize what he’s been through, you really start to like him.”  

LIFE BEYOND THE BLUE JERSEY

The Mustangs will miss their captain, as Russell graduates in May. However, he leaves with a large support group of coaches and teammates, who are excited to see where his future leads him.

“He will obviously be a huge loss for us. Lawrence has done a really good job of leading in the way he does it. He leads by example. He never wanted to be in the limelight,” says Starr. “Obviously he’s a tremendous basketball player, but it’s more than that; it’s his character. We’ll really miss that. All the guys look up to him and respect him. I’ll miss the opportunity to influence him the same way, but we’ll definitely still be friends forever.”

Russell plans to go back home to Washington after graduation. He’s excited to be reunited with his family and figure out his next steps.

“I’m going to try to go professional,” Russell said about his plans for the future. “If not though, I want to do the firefighting program with my younger brother. It’s always been a dream of ours to do the program together.”

Russell is both excited for the future and sad about leaving it all behind. Graduating is bound to be bittersweet, as he says goodbye to his school, his team, and his jersey, at least for a while.

“The experiences I’ve had here, I’ll never have again,” Russell said. “I’ll really miss playing and just putting on the jersey. I’ve created another family here at Master’s, and I’ll never forget the bonds I’ve formed with my teammates. It was amazing. I’ll never forget it.”

Russell was recently asked in an interview with The Mane what one word would describe his time playing for Master’s. A short pause followed the question. Then the senior replied with a smile and the word, “sensational”.

 

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Senior Spotlight: Lawrence Russell