Senior Jessica Lawson is making the most of her sixth and final season playing in college.
The 6-foot-3 center for the USF women’s basketball team has made a huge impact on a squad that has nine newcomers, starting all 24 games and leading the team in points and rebounds per game.
“This season has been a lot of fun for me so far,” Lawson said. “I am learning a lot about myself, such as how to be a great leader. I bring a lot of experience to the team, which is big because it is definitely something we are lacking.”
Only two others returned with Lawson from last year’s team that won the WNIT championship and finished with a program record 27 victories. With that came pride, but it also brought a lot of responsibility this year.
“I feel like I have helped the young players out a lot,” Lawson said. “I see myself as the team mom because I have been here the longest, and I am always happy to answer questions and help our younger players whenever they need it.”
This season almost didn’t happen for Lawson, who’s had a series of substantial knee injuries in her career and had to fight for a sixth year of eligibility. She enrolled at the University of California and was named to the Pac 10 All-Freshman team in 2005.
But then a knee injury and a transfer to USF caused her to miss the 2005-06 and the 2006-07 season. But in May, the NCAA granted her another year of eligibility.
She’s now having the best statistical season of her career, averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10.8 rebounds.
“Lawson carries our team and is a model of consistency,” said senior forward Melissa Dalembert. “She plays hard every minute of every game and is a huge motivator both on and off the court. She is guaranteed to get double digits in either points, rebounds or both every night.”
Lawson has 14 double-doubles this season and is first in the Big East in rebounds per game and eighth in scoring. She’s had seven double-doubles in the last eight games and could continue her hot streak when the Bulls (14-10, 5-6) play at No. 12 Georgetown (20-4, 9-2) tonight at 8 in Washington D.C.
USF turned the ball over 31 times in a 66-52 loss against Georgetown on Jan. 9 at the Sun Dome.
“We are familiar with what Georgetown likes to do and our coaches came up with a solid game plan,” Lawson said. “We are getting close to the end of the season now, and I feel like our team is really jelling and in sync.”
USF is coming off its best defensive performance of the year, holding Seton Hall to 38 points in a victory Saturday. With the Bulls trying to get in a position for a postseason spot, Lawson said she will try to make the best of their last five regular-season games.
“Every game is closer to my last one,” Lawson said. “This whole experience has been so memorable for me, and I just want it to end on a good note.”