Lawal opts to return to Yellow Jackets
If Georgia Tech harbored hopes of going from last place in the ACC to the NCAA tournament in one season, then the Yellow Jackets probably needed sophomore forward Gani Lawal to withdraw from the NBA draft.
Sunday afternoon he did.
Lawal told ESPN.com that he was sending in his paperwork to the NBA to meet Monday's 5 p.m. ET deadline. The 6-foot-9 Lawal averaged a team-second-best 15.1 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets last season (12-19 overall, 2-14 ACC). Lawal played well in two of the highest-profile games for the Yellow Jackets last season, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 boards in a two-point win over Wake Forest and then scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 boards in an ACC tournament win over Clemson in Atlanta.
"I'm going back to school," Lawal said. "I sat down with my family and after going through this positive experience, where I learned a lot and got a lot of exposure, I realized the best thing for me to do was to go back."
Lawal said he discovered how much he has to polish his skill set and continue to understand the nuances of the game.
"You don't get that in two or three years," Lawal said.
Lawal should be a focal point of the Yellow Jackets along with highly touted newcomer, 6-9 Derrick Favors, rated as the No. 1 power forward on the ESPNU 100. The Yellow Jackets have a six-player newcomer class that is expected to have an impact from day one. Georgia Tech also returns point guard Iman Shumpert (5 apg), guard Maurice Miller (4.3 apg), forward Zach Peacock (9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and guard Lance Storrs (4.1 ppg).
"We can use the way last year ended as motivation," said Lawal of the win over Miami, the last-second loss at Boston College, the ACC tourney win over Clemson and the two-point loss to Florida State. "We've got a good class coming in but that doesn't mean we're automatically going to be better. We're capable of doing big things and having a big turnaround next season."
Lawal said he's going to take second-summer session classes at Georgia Tech and rest after going through rigorous workouts the last month.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.