English forward Lawson brings unique skill set to WKU

Tyler Lashbrook

WKU coach Ray Harper was asked at Media Day which newcomer to the basketball team could have the biggest impact right away.

“The biggest surprise has been Ben Lawson,” Harper said as he cracked a slight smile. “Bright, bright future.”

Lawson, the Toppers’ freshman forward from London, England, is a uniquely versatile player that Harper said can be “special.”

The 7-foot Englishman would be described on paper as a “big man,” but his skill set is that of a wing.

“I’m not big enough to be a post-up guy at the moment,” said Lawson, who’s generously listed at 210 pounds. “I’ve been working at it. I’ve put on almost 20 pounds since I’ve been here.”

Lawson said that junior forward George Fant helped smooth the transition from London to Bowling Green by showing him all of the fast food restaurants around town.

Those restaurants provide Lawson a place to eat, and in turn gain weight, something that Harper wants to see his freshman forward do.

But his thin frame hasn’t held back the deadliest part of his offensive repertoire — his jump shot.

That jump shot, combined with his size and his ability to run the floor is what Harper thinks can make him “special.”

“I’m just excited he’s in a WKU uniform because there’s going to come a day where people are going to look back when he arrived and not realize he’s the same player,” Harper said. “If he can make the same strides that (sophomore center) Aleksej Rostov made in a year, he’ll be special real soon.”

Rostov, a Latvian native, was stuck on WKU’s bench until the middle of last year. It took Rostov until Jan. 5 to record his first 20-plus minute game in a Topper uniform last season.

When Rostov got his opportunity to play, he made the most of it. He went on to start the final nine games of the season, playing a major role in WKU’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament run and surprising No. 1 seed Kansas with 11 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Rostov, a foreigner to America himself, called Lawson a “great kid.”

“He picks up everything extremely fast. He has a great basketball IQ. He still lacks power, strength in the post, but it’s fixable,” Rostov said. “So I expect a lot of things from him.”

Lawson averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game on 40-percent shooting from three-point range in his senior season at Oaklands College in Hitchin, England. He’s currently a member of the England 18U National Team.

He has been with the team in Bowling Green since summer. He said the transition to the United States was difficult at first but that everyone on the team has been supportive of him.

“These guys have been brilliant, and they’ve been another family to me, and we’ve really come together,” Lawson said. “I feel at home now.”