Interviews

Published on December 15th, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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Corey Chandler Remembers Iconic New Jersey Hoop Star, Keon Lawrence: “That Was My Brother!”

Corey Chandler shares memories of the late, Keon Lawrence.

Corey Chandler (Former Rutgers standout) was once one of the most recruited basketball players out of New Jersey. That being said, Chandler actually studied and immolated the game of, Weequahic High School star, Keon Lawrence. Lawrence was a scoring machine. His senior year of high school he averaged 31 points a game, 7 assists and 9 rebounds. He was also only the third player in Essex County to surpass the 2,000-point mark.  Lawrence would go on to play for Missouri and Seton Hall and at the time of his untimely passing, he was playing in the Norwegian Basketball Premier League. Lawrence seemed to be on the verge of coming back to New Jersey and getting into coaching before he passed away the day after Thanksgiving. Lawrence was just 32-years old when he passed away, yet he has left such an impactful impression on those who knew him best.

I was able to catch up with, Corey Chandler who refers to, Lawrence as, “his brother,” to get a better understanding of who, Keon Lawrence was, what he meant to Chandler as well as the New Jersey basketball scene.

First and foremost, my condolences to you for your loss. I know he was like a brother to you. How did you get the news that he had passed away?

Corey Chandler: Thank you. I actually got the news from someone we used to play with during the summer, and as we got older in high school, Sandy. I got a message on messenger saying that, Keon was in the hospital and that I needed to hurry up and get there because he wasn’t doing too good. The first night I went over there, but it was after hours; like 10:00. The security guard wouldn’t let me go upstairs, so I went back the next day and he wasn’t looking too good at this time.

Did you know he was sick prior to his hospital stay?

Corey Chandler: No, not really. Keon never gave any signs of being ill. I haven’t seen him in a while; probably like a month or two. But I didn’t think he was ill or anything.

How did you guys meet? Bring us back to the beginning.

Corey Chandler: The very first day that I met, Keon was a Saturday right before a high school basketball game started. It was the last bit of AAU, right before the season starts. We were playing at North Academy. We had an AAU game there. Sandy Pyonin… because we played for the Road Runners, his coach brought him down to the gym, and I met him in a game. I was one of the guys that was taking all the shots at the time, and when we got, Keon he started taking all of the shots. And I didn’t know him. That’s how I met him. He was taking all of the shots and making them all. He was playing good. Coming up, I never seen someone that could score the ball like how I scored the ball, and that’s how we met. He could score the ball like I could.

What type of impact did he have on the New Jersey hoops scene?

Corey Chandler: In Newark, everybody wanted to be like, Keon. I even tried to mock my game on his. That tells you what kind of impact he had. He had a long crossover, he was very athletic, he could shoot the ball from pretty much anywhere on the court, and his handles were great. Growing up playing basketball, you could just tell that he worked on his moves. His impact was amazing because if you could score and put up numbers, everybody wanted to do that and he was doing it game in and game out. Everybody wanted to go out there and kill. He had a crazy impact especially where he’s from. Everybody was rooting for Keon. He had a big impact.

What made him such a special person?

Corey Chandler: He was someone that could adjust to everybody. Just kicking it with him, playing in games and seeing how easy he scored the ball. We had a lot of fun on trips. It was an experience with him and a lot of other kids that played with us on AAU. That was my brother!

Where would you rank him in terms of guards coming out of Jersey?

Corey Chandler: He scored a lot of points. He scored 2,000 points. Me personally… he didn’t win anything like a Christmas Tournament or County Championship or State, so people don’t look at him like that because he’s not in that state yearbook. But as far as scoring the ball, he scored the ball better than anybody I have ever seen. In ’06, I would say to me he was the #1 player in 2006. Him not advancing into the tournaments, he really don’t get looked at, but his senior year, he averaged 31 points a game. Nobody wasn’t doing that but him. He got player of the week so many times. I would put him as #1 in the class of 2006; me personally.

As we get older and into our adult lives, it’s hard to keep up with people. How often were you guys in touch?

Corey Chandler: This time, I didn’t speak to Keon in like a month. As we got older we grew separable because we had kids, he was still playing ball too at the time. He was in Norway if I’m not mistaken. So, we he was going back and playing for 8-months, I didn’t really see him. We had came home for holidays and stuff like that, I would get to see him. But I didn’t have to see, Keon on a daily. It’s like when we see each other, it’s like we never left. Before that, we usually was together every day. We were inseparable.

He was only 32-years old, sounds like he went downhill very fast. I know you said he wasn’t looking too good when you saw him, did you think he would pull through or did you sense you were seeing your brother for the last time?

Corey Chandler: I had big hopes. Something was telling me that he was going to pull through. He was too strong. I know him. Things out there can kill us, but I didn’t know it was that fatal and severe. But I had hopes for him. I was like, “Yeah, “Ke” strong, he going to get through this.” That day I couldn’t see him, that Friday night when I wasn’t able to get upstairs by him, I was like, “Oh yeah, tomorrow and he’s going to be up.” That’s how I had pictured it. Once I got the bad news… well, I really don’t listen to anyone during times like that. I really gotta see it for myself because certain people can misconstrue words. It’s painful, so you’re in denial, but I always had hopes for him to pull through because he was strong.

Not only was he a New Jersey hoops legend, but it sounds like he was a great guy. My condolences to you, the Cervino family, and the entire Lawrence family for the loss. Is there anything you would like to say in closing on behalf of him or his family?

Corey Chandler: For “Ke” and the whole Lawrence family, I love them. His son, KJ, the basketball community and Weequahic School. He made standards for them as a player going there and I’m going to miss him. That’s big bro. I wish I could have told him this before he exited the world, but I will be able to tell him that one day.



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