ST. PETERSBURG — The University of Miami basketball program has on it the fingerprints of Vincent Lawrence. Search the University of Alabama records and you’ll find traces of his prints there too. The history of Lakewood High School basketball program also gives evidence that he had an influence and spent much time there as well.
At 6 feet 6, this giant of a man with a brilliant mind, commitment to excellence and love for his family made a tremendous impact on the community and his family.
Lawrence and his wife Karen traveled extensively to watch their children excel on the basketball court. He was expected to be somewhere in the crowd admiring his kids. He was driven by his commitment to family and the success of his children.
Currently, his grandson, Anthony Lawrence, Jr., is a junior guard playing basketball for the University of Miami. Grandpa traveled to his games just as he had done two decades earlier when his sons Anthony Sr. and Patrick sported a Hurricane uniform.
Lawrence was in the stands observing their moves and enjoying every proud moment with his family. Last Friday, however, Lawrence heard the official whistle to rest and made his final farewell trip to his heavenly home.
“I don’t know what it’s like not to have my dad in the stands because I’ve never seen it,” said Anthony Sr. “It didn’t matter what we were involved in or where we were playing, my parents were always there and it’s the same with the grandkids.
“When basketball started going well, he bought a van so we all could be comfortable for the road trips. We didn’t need a team mom, we had a team dad and it was enough of him to share with everyone. He was an awesome guy.”
Although Lawrence was the unquestioned alpha male of the family, his heart melted at the glowing beauty of his daughter Jocelyn, who is a look-a-like of her mother and the heartbeat of her dad. She describes him as being her first love that showed her what a real man is like.
Jocelyn felt cherished like a diamond at being daddy’s baby girl. He always left the door of communication open. Although the lessons for the boys were hard and direct, the message for her was the same.
“I learned a lot about life from my dad and we could talk about anything and I mean anything,” said Jocelyn. “We talked about relationships, church, politics, sex, everything. He taught me to be strong, courageous and to fight for what I believe.
“My dad taught me how a woman should be treated and he demonstrated it by the way he loved and treated our mother. He was a fighter for what is right and he fought to take care of his family. We knew that he loved us. I was his little girl.”
Lawrence had a love for people that extended beyond his family. He particularly was drawn to those in need. On one occasion, he got word that a woman lost much of her belongings in a house fire. Unbeknownst to anyone, he and his wife found the woman and gave her money to recover. Her tears said to him that she was appreciative, and that’s all he needed.
This gesture doesn’t surprise Lawrence’s good friend Andrew Mitchell Sr. He describes his friend, more like a brother, as being a well-rounded man who was second to none.
With the two of them having spent much time together, Mitchell has seen Lawrence in the roles of father, husband, Godfather, grandfather, brother and most of all, friend.
“He is as true as they come. He always believed in helping the underdog or less fortunate,” said Mitchell. “He was a man of his word. He didn’t throw the rock and hide his hand. He was straight up.
“If he told you something, then you could take it to the bank. When he says that he is going to do something, then he’ll do it. If he says that he is not going to do something, there’s no need in asking him again.”
Lawrence and Mitchell spearheaded the launch of 5th Avenue Church of Christ that started with nine members and has since grown to more than 200. It was another vision that connected with his passion and a challenge.
His passing brings about the start of a new season and for the first time Anthony Sr. will coach Lakewood High’s basketball team and Anthony, Jr. will suit up for the Miami Hurricanes without Lawrence in the stands.
Patrick will run his business using previous advice from his dad; Jocelyn will have distant memories of her first love, Jordan, her son, will rely on his uncles to pick up where granddad left off and Karen will mourn the love of her life.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, July 22 at 11 a.m. at 20th Street Church of Christ, 825 20th St. S. The wake service will be held Friday from 6-8 p.m. also at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the United Negro College Fund in honor of Vincent Lawrence.