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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebrasketball Film Study: Jamarques Lawrence’s Freshman Season

July 24, 2023

Jamarques Lawrence wasn’t a day-one impact player for Nebraska. In fact, he wasn’t even a regular rotation player until injuries vaulted him up the depth chart and into the starting lineup.

However, what he showed during his 12-game stint as a starter to close out the season has Nebraska fans excited about his future in Lincoln. To get a better feel for what kind of player Nebraska has in Lawrence, I dove into the film with the help of Synergy Sports.

Lawrence’s efficiency overall wasn’t anything special, though it’s hard to be consistent with inconsistent playing time and his numbers as a starter were significantly better than the season-long ones.

On all possessions, he scored 0.825 points per possession (PPP), ranked in the 34th percentile and considered “average.” He shot 46.8% on 2-pointers and 36% on 3-pointers, with the latter nearly doubling the former in volume. He turned the ball over at an 18.1% rate (which has to improve) and got to the foul line 11.4% of the time.

Lawrence is first and foremost a shooter, and he ranked in the 77th percentile nationally in efficiency on all jump shots, shooting 37.2%. Most of those jumpers were catch-and-shoot looks and he shot 38.5% on them, all 3s (74th percentile, “very good”). He connected at a high rate both on unguarded (9-of-21, 42.9%, 75th percentile “very good”) and and guarded catch-and-shoot 3s (16-of-44, 36.4%, 74th percentile, “very good”).

Lawrence shot 4-of-7 on jumpers inside of 17 feet and 1-of-4 on 2-point jumpers beyond 17. His 36% mark on 3-pointers ranked him in the 69th percentile nationally (“very good”). He shot 6-of-18 on jumpers off the dribble (4-of-9 on 2s and 2-of-9 on 3s), ranked in the 47th percentile and considered “average.” Lawrence also shot 2-of-6 on runners.

While he showed great promise as a shooter, Lawrence perhaps showed his youth more around the basket as he shot just 50% at the rim, all on layups (15-of-30). That ranked in the 25th percentile (”below average”), which also includes him going 0-for on his four and-one opportunities.

With the baseline numbers out of the way, let’s take a closer look at how Lawrence did his damage.


Just over a third of Lawrence’s possessions were of the spot-up variety (which includes both catch-and-shoot looks and attacking closeouts) — 33.7% to be exact (56 in total). He scored 0.786 PPP (30th percentile, “below average” ad shot 30.6% overall with a higher turnover rate (7.1%) than free-throw rate (5.4%).

However, the numbers look slightly better if you look at just his time as a starter as he shot 3-of-13 in spot-up situations in his first 16 games, where shot opportunities came sparingly. As a starter (40 possessions), he scored 0.875 PPP and shot 33.3% (2-of-6 on 2s, 10-of-30 on 3s) with two turnovers and two trips to the foul line.

Lawrence shows the ability to be more than just a stand-still shooter who needs open looks created for him. He moves really well off the ball, lifting or drifting into open passing windows so his teammates can get him the ball, and he does a good job setting his feet and squaring his shoulders once he catches the ball. He doesn’t need to toe the line either, showing the ability to hit from close to NBA range, and as mentioned above, he can hit shots even with a hand in his face.

Unfortunately, after getting off to a great start as a starter, he made just two of his last 13 spot-up 3s to drag his percentage back down. He also looked fairly limited attacking closeouts, shooting just 2-of-8 on all two-point spot-up shots.


Later in the season, Lawrence did attack closeouts to collapse the defense and kick out to a 3-point shooter three times for assists.

To take the next step, Lawrence is either going to have to become more of a threat to attack closeouts effectively or he’s going to have to become more consistent as a shooter, and he definitely has the potential for the latter at least.


Lawrence fits right into Fred Hoiberg’s preferred up-tempo style, and the open court allowed him to show a bit more of his game. Transition made up 18.7% of his possessions (31 in total) and he scored 1.194 PPP (76th percentile, “very good”). He shot 6-of-10 on 2s and 7-of-14 on 3s with six trips to the foul line and three turnovers.

Lawrence was effective both as a reserve and as a starter, though the opportunity increased significantly (two transition opportunities per game in the last 12). He was effective leading the break himself (though his free-throw struggles again cost him) but was deadly off the ball.

Lawrence does a great job sprinting up the floor and getting to the corners, where his teammates routinely found him. He shot well off he catch and also got to the basket and finished better than he did in the more confined spaces in the halfcourt, even converting two buckets through fouls (though he missed both freebies). He also showcases solid vision and unselfishness, finding open teammates when the situation called for it.


Pick-and-Roll Ball-Handler

While Lawrence is likely at his best off the ball, with the way the roster has shaped up there’s a chance he could play more point guard this year to get him on the court at the same time as Keisei Tominaga. To that end, the 6-foot-3 guard showed some promise in ball screen actions, both as a scorer and as a passer.

In pick-and-roll possessions including passes (31 in total), Lawrence and the Huskers produced 0.871 PPP (54th percentile, “good”). On passes, his teammates shot 6-of-11 including 2-of-6 on 3s with one trip to the line. Lawrence himself shot 5-of-12 (1-of-4 from 3) with a foul drawn and four turnovers, though only one of those was truly a bad pass and I’d give fault to his teammates on the other three.

Sixteen of those 31 possessions came in his 12 games as a starter with Lawrence and teammates shooting 7-of-12 from the field and producing 15 points, though all four turnovers came during those games to pull the PPPP down to 0.938.

Here’s a look at Lawrence’s own offense in ball screen situations.


Lawrence did a better job getting downhill and finishing with craftiness here than he did in spot-up closeout situations. If he can add the pull-up 3 to punish teams for going under the screen (certainly within the realm of possibility with his overall shooting touch) he would become that much more difficult to guard.

And here’s a look at his passing.


Though the sample size is small, Lawrence showed the ability to hit his screener both rolling to the rim and popping to the arc as well as find open teammates spotting up, including with some difficult skip passes.

Handoffs and Off Screen

I’ll lump these two together because the sample size is small but the upside is enticing, and also because Nebraska didn’t really run either action for him until he moved into the starting lineup.

On 13 handoff possessions (7.8% of his offense), he scored 13 points (73rd percentile, “very good”), shooting 5-of-11 including 3-of-6 from 3 with two turnovers. Twelve of those 13 possessions came as a starter, and he made five of his last six shots as he became comfortable in that role.

Lawrence showed no hesitation rising and firing if the defender goes under the handoff. He also knocked down a nice pull-up and converted a crafty reverse.


Additionally, Lawrence dished out three assists out of handoff situations, getting downhill and dishing out to a 3-point shooter twice and dumping off to a teammate for a tough layup.

As for off-screen plays, there were only eight of them, but he scored 12 points. Lawrence shot 4-of-7 including 3-of-6 from 3 with an and-one and one turnover. The one 2-pointer was a pull-up jumper while the rest of the shots were catch-and-shoot 3s. All but one of those possessions came with him as a starter as Hoiberg began calling more plays for him to leverage his shooting ability.


Lawrence also recorded nine possessions as a cutter, but his struggles as a finisher popped up on those players as he shot just 3-of-9 including four blown bunnies and a layup that got blocked. Perhaps another offseason spent with Nebraska’s strength and conditioning program and and in the practice gym will allow him to take strides in that area. He’s not a particularly explosive athlete, which will always limit him to some degree, but a little more strength could allow him to improve his body control and touch around the basket.

Lawrence only logged three isolation possessions last season, shooting 1-of-3 for two points.

Lawrence was primarily an off-ball threat as a freshman, but he showed enough juice with the ball in his hands to think there’s plenty of ability for him to become an even more well-rounded player on offense as his career goes on.


The injuries to Bandoumel and Gary that led to Lawrence’s increased playing time also left a big void in the lineup when it comes to defense. The two “Blackshirts” typically took on the toughest perimeter defensive assignments, and when they went down, Hoiberg asked Lawrence to step into that role.

As a freshman, Lawrence spent time guarding the likes of Jalen Pickett, Jahmir Young and Chucky Hepburn (some of the best point guards in the league) as well as bigger wings like Jamison Battle and Kris Murray. He’s undersized for some of those matchups and doesn’t have elite foot speed, but he’s generally smart and works hard.

In off-ball situations, Lawrence seems to communicate well, pointing out switches and directing traffic. He sits in help two passes away and looks to tag the roll or drop on post players when the situation calls for it. He reacts pretty well in scramble situations, identifying the open man. He typically closes out hard with his hand up on shooters, though at times he can get a bit lost or get blown by.

Lawrence shows solid pursuit chasing his man off screens, though he will get picked off a bit more than you’d like to see. Perhaps added strength will suit him well in this area.


While Lawrence occasionally struggled navigating screens off the ball, he showed some real promise guarding ball screen situations. Lawrence did a good job getting under or over and reattaching to his man, putting his body in between the ball-handler and the basket. He drew a handful of offensive foul calls by doing just that. He also contained the ball-handler by sliding his feet and forcing turnovers, whether it be bad passes or a teammates digging down and poking the ball free.


While Lawrence still has a lot to prove to be considered an all-conference caliber defender, he showed plenty of promise handling difficult assignments as a true freshman, displaying both the work ethic and the understanding needed to play a key role on a good defense.

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