Selfish choices turn Rebel into ex-Rebel

A mistake is oversleeping for a final exam or standing in a class registration line for two hours without your checkbook. It is not driving under the influence at 7:30 a.m. and wrecking a car a few hours before your basketball team’s most important practice of the season in preparation for its most important game.

That’s called a selfish and stupid choice.

It’s one that has cost Marcus Lawrence the remainder of his UNLV career. That’s a rightful consequence of a problem that reaches beyond a single incident for a 20-year-old who needs to seek counseling before he gives any thought to where he’ll play basketball next.

Due process must take its course for Lawrence, the sophomore point guard who instead of consuming a nutritious breakfast before the Rebels gathered to practice a final time before departing for Brigham Young on Friday, was being arrested and booked into the Clark County Detention Center after rolling a car while allegedly being under the influence and definitely being underage.

He has a right to answer the charges and be fairly judged, but certainly not to compete for the Rebels again. That has always been a privilege, one he was given numerous second chances to maintain by a coaching staff that couldn’t and shouldn’t have offered another.

This is a sad ending to what was once an inspiring story. A local prep standout from Bishop Gorman High signs with the Rebels and is lauded as their point guard of the future. But whether the pressure to fulfill such expectations for family and friends and the fact his production hadn’t come close to such a level proved too heavy a burden for Lawrence, this is clear: He is a young man in need of help, one who must first admit to having a serious problem.

"Marcus wasn’t surprised by the result," Rebels coach Lon Kruger said. "He knew coming out of our last meeting there was no more margin. It’s extremely disappointing. The team is disappointed for Marcus, but they’re also disappointed he didn’t have the team’s best interests in mind. The players understood Marcus had three or four other opportunities and didn’t take advantage of it."

Forget about what this might mean to UNLV’s season, about how the Rebels could be hurt on the court a bit by subtracting the defensive pressure and minutes to spell starter Curtis Terry that Lawrence provides. Basketball is beyond secondary now.

Something more important than whether Lawrence again wears a college uniform hangs in the balance: his life and those innocent ones he could potentially hurt if this pattern continues.

Privacy rules exist for a reason, but this isn’t the first time Lawrence has had documented issues with alcohol at UNLV. He needs to either address this issue or pray the next time he gets behind the wheel after drinking he doesn’t also take out a father driving to work or a mother taking her children to school.

The time for tough love from those who care about him most is now.

"Marcus knew what would be tolerated," said Kruger, who because of those privacy rules is prohibited from publicly discussing the specific episodes that ultimately led to Lawrence’s dismissal. "We treat every kid individually and Marcus is the kind of guy you want good things to happen for so badly, we probably went beyond normal, for sure."

The assumption Division I athletes are too consumed with training and schoolwork and travel to avoid the temptation of wandering astray is ridiculous.

Where there is a will to drift toward destructive decisions, there is a way paved with bad influences.

And though Lawrence is believed to have continued local relationships that were thought potentially harmful, he is old enough at 20 to understand good from bad choices, no matter who he is running with.

This is his mess to fix, hopefully with the love and guidance of his family and prep coach (Grant Rice) and UNLV’s staff and others who speak of a bright and engaging person, one who would be as comfortable attending a state dinner as hanging with friends on a street corner.

Lawrence wants to play again and will be allowed to stay on scholarship through this semester while searching for a viable transfer option, though his biggest mistake would be thinking about basketball before confronting the reality of his problem.

"We told him whatever we can do to help, we will," Kruger said. "We won’t bend the truth because our credibility is (at stake) just like his. It’s not like Marcus doesn’t deserve another opportunity. Hopefully, this time, he takes advantage of it."

The first thing everyone needs to realize is that this was no mistake. Marcus Lawrence chose this path. Let’s hope he takes the necessary steps to make his future a much brighter and healthier one.

Ed Graney can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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