I had the privilege of meeting Danhue Lawrence during the recent Tug of War Charity tournament that was held all summer long during the Lethbridge Bulls season. My colleague at the time at Global TV Paul Kingsmith did an outstanding feature on him a few years back talking about Danhue’s difficult life in a violent area of Toronto. A basketball scholarship brought him to Lethbridge where he starred with the U of L Pronghorns. It turned his life around. I thought it would be of interest to many to get an update.
You came to Lethbridge on a basketball scholarship in 2008 leaving Toronto where you were surrounded by crime. You said in an interview with reporter Paul Kingsmith at the time that basketball saved you. Do you think much about where you could have been had you not made that decision?
I would definitely be in jail, maybe dead. I might be planning my release from prison at this moment as that is what most of my friends from that neighbourhood are currently doing but it is hard to predict as that was not the path I chose.
How did you enjoy your experience with the Pronghorns?
I was coached by two amazing, respectful coaches. They pushed me to be the best player I could be and I was grateful for the opportunity to play the sport that I love. The fans were very receptive and supportive as well.
How big of a culture shock was it for you to come to Lethbridge and how were you able to adapt to the small town life?
It was a huge culture shock to say the least. At the time, Lethbridge was not an overly diverse community so I stood out a lot. The slow pace of smaller city life and the different smell were two things I remember most. Adjusting was not too difficult as I never expected to stay here so I never got too comfortable or put too much effort into adapting. When I decided to stay, I had been here for a number of years so it just happened naturally.
You also did some coaching with the Kodiaks. How do you like that side of basketball?
It was fun to win a Championship as a coach with the Kodiaks. I enjoy the intricate part of the game more so as a coach then I did as a player. I got to see some of the mistakes I made as a player and was then able to assist other players in correcting those mistakes.
You got a degree in social work. What made you decide to go in that direction?
Where I came from was a huge factor in my decision to pursue Social Work. I love helping people, specifically at-risk youth. Experience is your greatest teacher. My mother and my grandmother were always helping people so it was a natural fit.
How fulfilling has it been?
It has been very fulfilling. I have spent the first few years of my Social Work career working in the Livingstone Range School District and School District #51 as a Family Liaison Counsellor. I also, through my Youth Basketball Intensity Training (YBIT), frequently provide mentorship and guidance to future athletes and at-risk youth.
You basically gave up a pro basketball career in Europe to be with your son. Talk about that.
It was an easy decision. The choice was not difficult because I never grew up with a father and I always thought to myself that if I ever had kids I would be there to watch them grow, walk, and play ball with them. Basketball has an expiry date and being a father doesn’t. I would make that decision over again. I am involved in my son’s life and that is more important than basketball. I thought it was very important to play that role and be a present father and I felt like I couldn’t do that playing basketball overseas. It was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.
You’ve lived in Lethbridge for a decade. Have you totally embraced your life here?
Yes, this is where I call home now. My son and my career are here. Everything I have achieved has happened here. I have lived here the longest of anywhere I have been so this has definitely become home.
You’ve mentioned to me that there are still issues of racism in Lethbridge. How do you deal with it?
How do you deal with racism? Try to educate. If they are open to discussing it, I will happily have a conversation but if not, there is nothing more that I can do so I just walk away. I don’t entertain the ignorance of other people nor do I feed into the stereotypes that pop culture has created. Self-love is the most important thing. When situations have arisen with my son, I have asked him if he likes who he is, if he loves himself because that is what matters.
You operate a youth basketball intensity training camp. Tell us about it.
This came about from pure love of the game. Playing at a high level and knowing what basketball did for me, it was important that I give back to the sport. This resulted in the creation of YBIT. My goal is to help kids to dream bigger than their reality. There are many opportunities for them to play in and outside of Lethbridge.
If you had Michael Jordan over for supper what would you ask him?
What was it like having 6 championships and to have the world at your feet? And can I get a ring? Sign me up for a Sneaker deal? And I would want to play him one on one.
Who’s your favorite NBA team now?
My home team is my favourite, Toronto Raptors. Outside of the Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, LA is my next favourite.
Who should play you in the movie about your life?
ME or Denzel Washington (but I still pick me).
Who should write the theme song for that movie?
50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would want to impart on your son?
Let failure be your biggest teacher and anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you like to give to your basketball students?
Dreams don’t work unless you do. If you want something you got to work for it, it isn’t going to be handed to you.
Do you still have a massive collection of Air Jordans?
Um, define massive? I have over 200 pairs of Air Jordans.
Is Lebron James in the discussion for being the greatest player of all time?
I would put Lebron up there as one of the greatest players to touch a basketball in the NBA, however, that being said I would not put him in the same category as Koby and Michael. Michael won too many championships back to back and they both played different positions. Lebron has holes in his game and has lost more championship opportunities than he has won. I would put him top 5 though.
What’s the biggest thing you miss about Toronto?
My family, the food and the culture!
Regrets are for suckers. How can I regret mistakes that made me who I am as a person? I can’t regret the lessons that I have learned.