UMass women’s basketball transfer Alyssa Lawrence returns home to the east coast

By Jamie Cushman

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

After growing up in Westchester, New York, the sunny and mild weather of San Diego can seem enticing. For Massachusetts women’s basketball player Alyssa Lawrence, she quickly discovered that playing in front of her family was even better.

A redshirt sophomore, Lawrence is set to take the court in Sunday’s opener for UMass for the first time after transferring from San Diego State University. At 6-foot-1, Lawrence has the size of a forward, but she likes to play a mix of guard and post play.

After spending her freshman year in San Diego, Lawrence decided that it was time to come home.

“I missed my parents and my brother once I was out there for a long period of time,” Lawrence said. “Even though I did have my uncle out there, I just wanted to come back closer to home so they can come and see my games more often.”

In high school Lawrence considered playing for the Minutewomen before ultimately opting to join the Aztecs out west. Her previous interest in playing for UMass helped draw her to Amherst once she decided to transfer.

“When we heard that she was looking to come back home, we certainly were pretty ecstatic, and she knew enough about us from the first go around that it was a perfect fit,” Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley said.

This journey home came with a price, however, as Lawrence was forced to sit out the 2014-15 season due to the NCAA transfer policy. But she practiced with her teammates despite not being able to play in games, giving her an opportunity to work on her game and develop chemistry with her teammates.

“The hardest part was practicing with my teammates and connecting with them and not being able to actually play with them in the games,” Lawrence said. “But I think it was a good experience because it gave me an opportunity to work on what I needed to do.”

Lawrence found value in this year off from in-game competition, something that not everybody can do, according to Dawley.

“It’s what you make it,” Dawley said. “I’ve seen kids just get frustrated and kind of not get a lot out of that year, but I think she came in with the perfect mindset that she was going to work hard both academically and athletically.

“She made the right choices so I think this year we’re going to see the results of a good positive year she invested last year into this season.”

In her one year at San Diego State in 2013-14, Lawrence played limited minutes, averaging just six per game. Now, UMass will be asking her for a lot more.

“Alyssa will have a huge role this year,” Dawley said. “She’s obviously a tremendous player offensively and defensively, she’s also got a lot of experience so we’ll look to her for points, for great defense and some leadership.”

On defense, Dawley will ask Lawrence to be one of the team’s key stoppers, often times having her guard the other team’s best player. Dawley also hopes she will seek out her own points on offense more, in addition to distributing the ball like she is already capable of doing.

As one of the team’s leaders, Lawrence wants the Minutewomen’s confidence to grow and help her teammates focus on the task at hand.

“Just go into every game knowing we can win this game and go into every game keeping a positive mindset and go into the game knowing there is no one on the court that will work as hard as you and keep that mentality regardless of who we’re playing, whether it be (George Washington), Duke or whoever it may be,” Lawrence said.

Now that she can finally play with her teammates and in front of her family, Lawrence has one goal: “Make my name.”

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]