The return may come in time for the conclusion of this much-disrupted season.

But there is always the chance it may not, Andrew Lawrence recognises.

“I hope so,” the Plymouth Raiders guard declares. “It’s been frustrating to not be playing, especially as I feel this team is set up for me.”

The 30-year-old was brought in last summer to lend wisdom to a reshaped and upgraded roster in Devon. To lend the experience accumulated over a decade at a high level, from featuring for Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, to stops in fortified leagues in Spain, France and Italy.

The campaign before, he was left marooned when London City Royals imploded. A deal was awaiting to take him back to the Italian League when Covid blew up the world.

Then, as he jogged down the court ahead of the start of this delayed domestic term, his hamstring decided to violently splinter apart.

“It was a rupture of the tendon,” he confirms. “So it was quite severe. But I had a really good surgeon, the same surgeon that Harry Kane had. So I did see the very best in the country in which was good.

“I feel really good after. My legs are strong. It’s just building up to the point where I’m able to do and get back to being myself again.”

12 months without practicing his craft in a competitive sphere has been testing, no matter the pandemic. “I can’t even put into words how much I’ve missed it,” he proclaims.

Yet it has helped to have remained in close proximity to his colleagues, he says, rather than completing his rehab back at home in London and merely being a ghost within the squad, watching only from afar.

Blessed with a fine basketball IQ surely inherited from his father Renaldo, Lawrence has always been an erudite and thoughtful interviewee from a young age. Being the young pup on an Olympic team in the glare of that spotlight never seemed to faze him one jot.

Which is why his presence in Plymouth’s ranks has still brought some dividends, if not the ones anticipated on his arrival. He remains an absentee from the box score but repays his wage with valued input to Paul James and his coaching staff.

A thought here. A word there. “It is limited in what I can do,” he outlines. “But I do try and help where I can. Especially with the other players and just telling them what I see and things of that nature.

“But I mean, we’ve got a really good group. And they’ve got a lot of veterans like Ashley and people that they can lean on as well.”

Lawrence was the youngest Olympic squad member in 2012

And still, it is natural that, having entered his fourth decade last June, he is peeking over the horizon to when his patched-up body no longer sustains a life on the court.

Lawrence’s clutch of punditry appearances on Sky Sports this season have been astute and polished. No huge surprise. “It would be a very cool thing to potentially transition into,” he says.

Coaching perhaps is an option. Maybe an executive role would fit him like a glove.

“Moving forward, I would definitely be exploring avenues,” he affirms. “When I say I’d be interested in coaching, I don’t if a head coach or professional coach would be necessarily my idea. More the community stuff.

“And I think being a general manager would be interesting to me. I think that sort of behind the scenes role does definitely appeal.”

Just not yet. The daily grind and sweat continues, in the gym, on the floor with light practices. All in the hope of lacing up shoes and slotting dimes come the spring.

He has gas left in the tank and a desire to roam free.

“My focus is definitely to come back,” he adds. “I still think have got a lot of years playing this game, whether that’s in England, or whether it’s abroad, I do definitely see myself with multiple years playing and getting back to a high level – if not even higher in terms of the standard that I can play at.

“I’m thoroughly confident that they’re going to put me in the best position to be back. As with all things, you always have different avenues and things that you’re thinking of after basketball, as well as coinciding with it in the future.

“But I’ve got a few avenues that I’m currently pursuing as to what I would do either towards the end of my career, or when it is completely finished.”

A version of this interview appeared previously in The Post Up – MVP’s regular email newsletter with exclusive news and features – Subscribe today.

Images: Ahmedphotos

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