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Field general, court leader

NDA’s Lawton excels in soccer, hoops

Notre Dame Academy, Lawton
Emmett Lawton is a two-sport star at Notre Dame Academy. The senior is trying to decide which sport he will play in college: basketball or soccer. Greg Bates photos


As Emmett Lawton packed his cleats into a bag, he took some time to himself to reflect on his team’s remarkable season and his phenomenal soccer career.

Lawton had just helped guide Notre Dame Academy to its third straight WIAA Division 3 state runner-up finish in Milwaukee.

The loss stung, but the senior took it in stride.

Lawton knew in nine days the basketball season was starting and it would satisfy his competitive juices for another few months.

“Basketball right now has certainly helped massage the feeling of the third state championship loss,”

Lawton said. “Great season, but the transition’s nice. It kind of takes your head off the ‘dang it’ factor of losing three in a row.”

Lawton was “the guy” for Notre Dame this season on the soccer pitch, scoring an eye-popping 44 goals as his team went 19-1-4.

This season on the basketball court, Lawton has become “the guy” — the go-to scorer and leader — as well. It’s a role that he’s not had to fill until this year for the Tritons’ hoops squad.

It’s been a smooth transition for Lawton from soccer to basketball as a two-sport star at the private high school.

Playing both soccer and basketball might not be the most orthodox combination for a high school athlete, but it works for Lawton.

“You don’t see as many kids that really excel in both of those sports, although, when you think about it, the footwork and just the level of conditioning and changing speed and direction, all those things that come with soccer certainly benefit a basketball player,” Notre Dame boys’ basketball coach Brian Bobinski said.

Tritons soccer coach Michael Prudisch also sees the benefit in Lawton playing both sports and feeding off one another.

“He’s just a model student-athlete and it’s amazing that he’s as talented as he is not just at one sport but at both sports,” Prudisch said. “It just speaks to how he’s just a true athlete. Soccer and basketball are two sports that don’t exactly — there’s some similarities in terms of skills, but going from using your feet to using your hands as well as he does is pretty impressive.”

Lawton used to be a three-sport player during his younger years. He used to be a tennis player, following a family tradition — his mom, Jessie, played at Marquette University, and his younger sister,

Lucy, went to state this season for the Tritons. However, tennis got to be too time-consuming with all his basketball, soccer and school commitments and he had to retire his racket.

“Soccer certainly helps with basketball where the football dudes are kind of more green faced at the start of the season endurance-wise as you’re always moving,” Lawton said. “I’d say side-to-side movement wise, soccer helps me out with basketball and kind of contributes to shiftiness. I’d say similar kinds of concepts and ideas with the transition game in both is my favorite.”

A magician on the field

Lawton was flat out unstoppable during the fall on the soccer field.

In 24 games, Lawton, a winger, tallied 44 goals and six assists for 94 points. He scored at least one goal in 18 of his team’s games. In 13 of the games, he netted multiple goals. During a stretch late in the season, Lawton scored 20 goals in six games — including a five-goal outburst against Sheboygan South.

After Lawton’s phenomenal season, accolades rolled in. He was named the Fox River Classic Conference offensive player of the year, second-team all-state and all-Great Lakes Region, one of about 15 Wisconsin high school players to make that list.

As a junior, Lawton put up 28 goals and 13 assists for 69 points. In his first year as a starter as a sophomore, he had 19 goals and 11 assists.

For his career, Lawton was a two-year captain who registered 91 goals and 30 assists for a school-record 212 points. He’s second on the all-time list in goals scored.

“He just has that raw athletic ability that makes him a great athlete, so that’s a great place to start,” Prudisch said. “But then he has all the tools that he needs to be a great soccer player — he’s quick; he’s tall for a soccer player, but yet can still move really well; he’s got some finesse that you sometimes lose with bigger players, so he has great touch on the ball; and he’s got that intelligence that he can make plays and knows where to be and knows how to play the game of soccer. He plays Chess on the soccer field when other guys are playing Checkers.”

Elliot Bordini has been playing soccer with Lawton since the two were in elementary school. Bordini has always been amazed by Lawton’s talents on and off the field.

“Emmett’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Bordini said. “In school and in sports, it’s crazy to see how much he’s doing.”

Bordini was an honorable mention all-state recipient this season and the Fox River Classic Conference defensive player of the year, and he knows firsthand how great of a soccer player Lawton is.

“I struggled defending him sometimes,” Bordini joked.

Along with playing high school soccer, he’s played club over the years for FC Wisconsin as well as the Stampede.

Upping his game on the court

After being the second leading scorer last season for the Tritons at 13.9 points per game, Lawton was thrust into the top scoring option this season after standout Chris Mitchell graduated.

Lawton, who was named a team captain by his teammates, embraces the role of being the go-to scorer and leader on the court.

“I think that’s going to be a good challenge for Emmett,” Bobinski said. “It’s very different to go from being the second or third guy on the other team’s scouting report to being number one, where you’re going to receive all the attention. When Emmett gets open, the other coach is yelling at his team because that’s not what he wanted to happen. It’s going to be an adjustment for Emmett to learn to be successful when he is one of the sole focuses of the other team, but he’s definitely able to handle it.”

Lawton, who is listed on the Notre Dame roster at 6-foot-2, is in his third season playing varsity, second as a starter.

As a sophomore, he was one of the first guys off the bench and averaged 5.9 points per game. Last season, he started at guard and averaged 13.9 points and 2.4 assists.

Through the first four games this year, Lawton is putting up 23.8 points per game, including a career-high 32 points in a big nonconference win over Appleton East on Dec. 6.

Bobinski has watched Lawton step up his game this season.

“He certainly is very skilled,” Bobinski said. “He can really shoot the ball. He’s long and athletic and has the ability to get to the rim. Like I said, his conditioning and his ability to continue to move is really at an elite level. There are games where we may just never take him out of the game, and he’s able to handle that because of both his athleticism but also his endurance. His ability to be on the court a lot combined with his skill — he has a good feel for the sport of basketball and the movement of it and the way to attack defenses and offenses are really good.”

Since the summer of his eighth-grade year, Lawton has played AAU basketball for Team 1848.

College offers for both sports

Lawton recruited Bordini to go out for basketball this season as a senior, and Bordini jumped on board.

He’s gotten to see another side of Lawton away from soccer and on the court.

Bordini knows how talented Lawton is at both sports. But which is his best sport?

“That’s a great question,” Bordini said. “I’m going to have to lean toward soccer, just because I know a little bit more about that and I’ve gotten to play with him a little bit more than I have in basketball. He’s a great soccer player. I play defense, so I play on the other side of the field than him, so it’s really nice to just kick the ball to him and have him do his magic.”

Lawton tried to answer the same question about which sport he is better at.

“I would say there’s less of a size factor in soccer, so in some ways I’m more of a dominant physical presence on the soccer field — less of a technical guy though as I am in basketball,” Lawton said. “I’m more of like a point guard, shifty moves whatnot, look to drive-and-dish basketball player. More of a true shooting guard/point guard role. So, technically, I think I’m better at basketball.”

Lawton always attracts the best defender whether it’s on the field or the court, the opposing team knows exactly where he is at all times. Colleges are also taking note of his talents in both sports.

On Nov. 28, Division I Green Bay offered Lawton for soccer. Remarkably, it’s his only soccer offer thus far.

As for basketball, Division II Northern Michigan offered Lawton over the summer. He’s been offered by Division III Washington University (St. Louis) and has also been in contact with D-III schools Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Chicago, St. Norbert and some other

Wisconsin colleges.

On Dec. 9, Green Bay men’s basketball assistant coach Brandon Pritzl attended Notre Dame’s game against Sheboygan South to watch Lawton.

“With soccer, it’s because of the physicality and size and those factors, strength, etc., I have a better chance of playing at the Division I level, higher level of college soccer,” Lawton said. “I appreciate that and I’ll keep reaching out to coaches, have some opportunities and I’m thankful for them. Basketball-wise, I have D-II stuff and high academic D-III offers, so sorting through all those as well.”

Even though soccer might be Lawton’s most intriguing offer for high-level athletics, basketball could be his top choice.

“More undecided, but leaning towards basketball,” Lawton said. “As I say, I like one or the other more. In basketball season, I kind of get more into it, if you will, and put more time in as the year goes around into basketball than soccer, just kind of unconsciously. But still undecided.”

Lawton’s high school coaches are unsure what sport he will end up playing.

“I was talking to Bobinski and we both kind of joked that it depends on the day that you talk to him,” Prudisch said. “I think he might enjoy or favor basketball a little bit more, but his skill in soccer is so undeniable. I know he enjoys soccer, too. But I think he’s going to go with whatever he kind of gets a better offer so to speak. I think he wants to go D-I in whatever he does. I’m hoping and expecting that he gets more opportunities, I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

Along with his athletic goals, Lawton is taking into account his academic dreams as well when it comes down to his college decision. He’s considering going the pre-medical track and that will factor in what schools have that intended major track and what their placement rates are for medical school.

Lawton would like to make his college decision somewhat soon.

“Christmas break I’ll have some time away from Notre Dame, but I don’t know for sure,” Lawton said. “I’ll have more time to reflect and hopefully decide on which sport and then narrow down from there.”

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