BU exclusive, Shane Lawal: “Avellino owes me a lot of money! At Barça I played on half a leg and Sassari and the Sacramento Kings…”

Shane Lawal made history for Dinamo Sassari. But not only that, because Shane Lawal partly marked the history of Serie A, for what he did that season with the Sardinians, who were able to beat the battleship Olimpia Milano in the Scudetto semifinals and then Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia in the finals.

BasketUniverso had the pleasure of interviewing Lawal, now a coach at the youth level and former Player Development Coach of the Sacramento Kings. Our “journey” with him begins with this very beautiful experience he was able to have in the NBA thanks to Coach Mike Brown.

What was the experience like as Player Development Coach of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA?

I have to say it was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to see what NBA basketball is like from the inside and to be able to compare it to basketball in Europe or other countries around the world or at the youth level. You have the opportunity to work with the best, it allowed me to improve a lot, it was just a wonderful experience, especially the video analysis part.

How did this opportunity present itself?
Shane Lawal
Shane Lawal to Sacramento Kings

Chimezie Metu, a great friend of mine, suggested to Coach Mike Brown that he have a Nigerian on the Nigeria coaching staff [di cui Brown è stato CT nel 2020-21, ndr], which consists of only American coaches. So Coach Brown got a list of possible names and chose me. Things went well and he proposed me to join him in Sacramento.

Can you explain what the job of Player Development Coach consists of?

You have responsibility over 2-3 players, depending on the team: you have to improve them in any aspect of their game. You have to do this in daily practice, before practice, after practice, before games, and generally in all basketball-related moments. An important job is video analysis, you can show them where they need to improve.

The Kings have been one of the worst teams in the NBA for many seasons, while last year they did very well. What has changed?

They have a number of very strong young players. Domas Sabonis for example, very strong, but also Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and others you know well. Plus they are a great group and they have a great coaching staff led by Mike Brown, that makes all the difference.

During your career you have been a globetrotter, playing in countries like Qatar, Kazakhstan and Libya. What was it like for a rookie to play so far from home and what can you say about the basketball and lifestyle in these countries?

One of the most difficult aspects for a player when going abroad is theenvironment. Playing basketball can sometimes be difficult, but not as difficult as adjusting to the language, the culture, not having your family around and sometimes not getting paid for what you do. I don’t know if you know that, Avellino still owes me a lot of money and I don’t know if I will ever see it. It’s not easy at all, you have to be able to accept this, but if you have the right passion you can get great results.

2014-15 season, Dinamo Sassari. You won 3 trophies. Was it the best season of your life? What was it like working with Coach Sacchetti and playing with Logan, Dyson, Sanders and other important players on that team?

That was without a doubt the best season of my career. We never started a game without the idea that we could win it. We played in the EuroLeague and went into every match with the idea that we could bring home the full spoils, even though we were facing real phenomena. Don’t take me for a fool when I say this, we really believed it! We were kind of like Varese today, we were playing very fast, but unlike today we were playing against super defenses. Reggio Emilia was super tough on defense, Milan too. We played against some of the best defenses in recent years, every game was a war against certain teams.

Offensively it had been years since Italy had seen a team so strong and with so many champions all together: Logan, Dyson, Sanders but not only, because there were also Sosa and Brooks, for example. When you play basketball you look into the eyes of the men you have next to you and in theirs I saw something different burning, I knew I could count on them in times of trouble, we trusted each other. There was never a contest when I was struggling where I didn’t know that some of them would help me out of that tunnel.

After Sassari you moved on to Barcelona, one of the most important clubs in Europe. But something went wrong in those two years. Was it just because of the injury during the Rio Olympics? Do you have any regrets about that period?

I have partially ruptured my meniscus during the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Scudetto Finals against Reggio Emilia in an attempt to grab a rebound. I couldn’t walk that night. But 2 days later we were supposed to play in Sassari game-6, I couldn’t miss it. Ugo D’Alessandro, our physiotherapist in the Sassari days, kept putting ice on me, tightened it, did everything to get me on my feet for game-6. In that match I did well but in game-7 I didn’t, I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t move. Drake Diener did whatever he wanted against me. But I didn’t stop and the week after the Scudetto I joined the National Team of Nigeria for training.In the summer of 2015 I practically played all the time before I got to Barcelona.

Shane Lawal in a Barcelona jersey.
Shane Lawal in a Barcelona jersey

At that point I only had half a leg, not even one. I did the whole 2015-2016 on half a leg until I got injured completely in February 2016 against Zalgiris. They told me I was supposed to be out 2-3 months in 2016 but I was back on the court in not even a couple of months because I wanted to play the EuroLega Final Four. Unfortunately I wasn’t well and didn’t play much, we lost and didn’t make it to the Final Four or the Liga ACB finals, we didn’t make it against Real Madrid. Unfortunately in the 2016 Olympics I got hurt again because I ruptured my patellar tendon and what happened happened. I have no regrets Because I did everything I could do, I regret that I was never in a position during my two years with Barcelona because we could have done great things.

A few months ago you returned to Sassari for a camp with young basketball players. Can you give us more details about this project?

I came back to Sassari to do a camp in 2022. I had a great time and hope to do more. I would like to make it an ongoing activity, but it has to make sense financially and it has to be sustainable. Because I have children and the summer time is when I have little to do with basketball, I would like to be with my family. So I would like the time spent to be paid back properly. I would like to do it not only in Sassari, but replicate it maybe in Milan, Verona and other Italian cities. I make an appeal: if you want to organize a camp, give me a call, I can help you bring other players to teach future generations as well.

What are Shane Lawal’s plans for the future? Would you like to coach? And why not in Italy and especially at Dinamo?

Well, I have been coaching since 2018. Currently I am still coaching in the youth sectors. I want to coach, at any level, starting with youth. Boys or girls, I don’t care. I want to coach as a professional in Italy, in Europe, in Russia, wherever there is an opportunity to coach. I want to combine what I learned in the NBA with what I learned in Europe,to become the best coach I can be. Of course, before accepting any proposal I will talk about it with my family, so that they will be happy with this decision. I wanted to coach Nigeria but they never got back to me, so I decided not to preclude myself from any opportunity because of the love I have for this game.

Finally, I want to say. I would like to coach together with Meo Sacchetti. Meo and I had moments of discussion, of contrast, but I love him because every time he protected me and my teammates. For this I will always be grateful to him, for this I would like to coach with him. Come on Meo!

We thank Shane Lawal for his availability and wish him the best of luck in his coaching career, hoping to see him coaching in Italy soon.

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Alessandro Saraceno
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