ATLANTA - Having played in an up-tempo system at Norcross High School, Gani Lawal has always appreciated the importance of being quick in transition.
Never has a quick transition been so important in his basketball career than now, having to step up from the high school level - albeit a very high level of prep play at Norcross - to the world of the big-time Division I college game.
While Lawal and everyone else in the Georgia Tech program would like for his adjustment period to his new, more difficult level of play to be swift, he and his coaches know certain things can't be rushed.
So, eight games into his college career, the 6-foot-8, 216-pound freshman forward is looking at life at a much more deliberate pace.
"Just day-by-day. That's how I'm looking at it," the 2006-07 Daily Post Player of the Year said shortly after the Yellow Jackets' 72-67 win at Georgia State last Wednesday. "I'm constantly learning from my mistakes, and (Tech) coach (Paul Hewitt) has just told me to keep working and keep a positive mindset.
"High school to college is a big transition. The speed and the size of guys are so much better. In high school, you'd play in a national tournament and the state tournament and have maybe three big games (at a time) against big-time talent and competition. In college, everyone has got good speed and size."
Granted, the increased level of play from opponents means Lawal hasn't been quite as dominant as he was when he averaged a double-double over his junior and senior seasons in helping the Blue Devils to back-to-back Class AAAAA state championships and earning all-American honors from McDonald's and Parade Magazine.
On the other hand, he hasn't been totally overwhelmed, either.
Lawal currently stands sixth on the team in scoring at 6.9 points per game, fourth on the team in rebounds at 3.0 per game and second on the team in blocked shots with 4.
More importantly, he seems to be getting a better grasp of how he fits into Tech's system with each game.
He is shooting a robust 60.5 percent from the floor, second only to Zach Peacock's 61.9 percent, and has seen his minutes steadily increase with each game, culminating in his first collegiate start against GSU, in which he finished with 8 points and 2 rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
"He plays hard, and he's a very unselfish player," Hewitt said of Lawal. "As he picks up more of what we're trying to do offensively and defensively, I think more of his basketball instincts will take over.
"He going through (an adjustment period) about what most freshmen go through. People sometimes overlook the adjustment to college life kids have to make outside of basketball - going to class every day and living on their own. He's having the typical adjustment to college life. From a basketball standpoint, he's doing very well. The energy level he brings to the floor tells me he's going to be successful."
Lawal credits his success so far to several different factors, not the least of which the patience Hewitt and his staff has had with him as well as the impact he's had rooming with fellow power forward Jeremis Smith.
Hewitt assigned the 6-foot-8, 236-pound senior to room with Lawal and Tech's two other true freshmen - guards Maurice Miller and Lance Storrs - to help mentor the trio.
Lawal believes Smith has been a positive influence on him and helped him with his transition to the college game.
"Jeremis is a great guy," Lawal said. "He's really helped me with the little things - stuff like being prepared.
"I think I've done pretty well so far. I've had some mess-ups defensively, but I'm still a work in progress."
That work has paid off in some big performances so far, including a career-high 17 points and 3 blocked shots in the Jackets' near upset of No. 13 Indiana.
Lawal's task will only get tougher, with No. 3 Kansas coming to Alexander Memorial Coliseum a week from tonight, plus the beginning of the ACC schedule still ahead.
However, Hewitt likes what he sees from Lawal and hopes he will continue to blossom.
"As he gets more familiar with our system, we'll see more consistency out of him," Hewitt said. "We had an intra-squad game (last) Sunday, and I saw progress. I suspect once he gets through exams and can concentrate on nothing but basketball for a while, he'll start to get things down pat."