For some people, the term student-athlete is a paradox. For Lawanna Monday, who hopes to extend her collegiate career today in Savannah with a victory over Kennesaw State in the Peach Belt Athletic Conference tournament, those words compliment each other.
"I think it's important to work harder on academics than out on the basketball court," Augusta State's senior forward said. "That's really why you come to college, to get an education."
The person affectionately known as "Keeta" -- a nickname Monday received in childhood as a combination of her middle name, Kiki, and her older cousin's nickname, Skeeter -- understands that, contrary to popular belief, there is more to life than basketball.
That's probably because she was not highly recruited out of high school. Lady Jaguars coach Lowell Barnhart had not recruited her during the season. He had not even seen her play during her senior year of high school. Only because assistant coach Ron Keller had sent out letters to schools around the state did Barnhart hear of Lawanna Monday.
"The coach at Greene-Taliaferro asked if Lawanna was coming to the tryout. I said, `Yeah, coach, she is.' He said, `That young lady is a player. When you see her you're going to like what you see.' Obviously, she was the cream of the tryout," Barnhart said.
And she turned out to be the cream of the Peach Belt Athletic Conference, as she picked up freshman of the year honors.
"The statistics she's compiled are unequaled in Augusta State history," Barnhart said.
In her four years, Monday has set six Peach Belt Athletic Conference career records, including most points scored, most free throws made and most free throws attempted.
With 2,090 points going into today's playoff game, she is the university's all-time leading scorer. She has been named to the first team of the PBAC for three consecutive years.
Forget all that, though, because when her season ends, Monday will have no time to remember fast-break layups and 18-foot jumpers. She will be too busy preparing for her cellular molecular biology course in the spring in hopes of going to the Medical College of Georgia to become a physician's assistant.
Monday, however, will never be forgotten for her buzzer-beating heroics against Armstrong Atlantic State in Savannah during the 1995-96 season. With the score tied at 74, Augusta State had the ball with 0.9 seconds left in the game. Barnhart called a timeout to set up one final play.
"Coach asked who wanted to take the shot," Monday said. "And of course, I wanted to be the one who shot it."
Guard Hayley Lystlund inbounded the ball in front of Augusta's bench as Monday came off a triple-screen at the top of the key. Monday caught the ball, turned to face the basket and heaved up an 18-footer.
"I saw No. 62, this big ole' white girl running at me," Monday said. "I just put up the shot."
"The shot was a bit short," Barnhart recalled. "It hit the front rim, skipped, hit the back rim and went up in the air. It came down through and we won the game. You always remember those kind of games."
Barnhart remembers, and now dreads the future without Monday.
"Now my problem is to find somebody who will come out and give us those 20 points a night she gave us."
Augusta State carries a 17-9 record (9-7 PBAC) into today's 6:30 p.m. game against Kennesaw State. In other women's games today, Francis Marion battles North Florida at noon; Georgia College & State University goes up against Clayton State at 2 p.m.; and Columbus State plays Armstrong Atlantic in the 8:30 nightcap.
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