NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the celebratory chaos that accompanied Belmont's fourth straight Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball championship in March, few noticed Paris Lawson slip away from the excitement. The fourth-year Bruin wandered alone toward center court at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., and did something she rarely allows herself to do.
Tears of joy and tears of sadness mixed on her cheeks. Lawson, who has lost three full seasons to injuries during her time at Belmont, had already made her decision. She will not be returning to the team to finish her eligibility next season.
"I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I firmly believe that I wouldn't have gone through three season-ending knee injuries for it not to amount to something bigger than basketball. I'm excited to see what comes next," Lawson said.
The only daughter of Eric and Carol Lawson, Paris joined the Bruins after a decorated prep career in nearby Murfreesboro. That included leading her Oakland High team to the 2015 Tennessee state championship game as a senior.
A scrappy pass-first point guard – she quips that she only learned to shoot by living with BU teammate and 3-point expert Darby Maggard – Lawson brought an energy and an edge to the Belmont women's basketball program. Even when she wasn't on the court.
"Paris is one of the strongest people I've ever had the pleasure to work with," said Belmont Head Coach Bart Brooks. "She was such an important part of this team and the energy and positivity she brought to the court every single day can't be overlooked. I'm so proud of her strength and determination and can't wait to see the amazing things I know she'll accomplish in life."
Injury ended Lawson's true freshman year after only six games in 2015. After playing a full slate the following year, her third season was cut short in just the second game. This past fall, injury came for her in a preseason scrimmage.
Throughout it all, Lawson lived on the bright side. Each injury was a lesson, a deeper reason why she was destined to spend the year cheering from the sidelines rather than running the floor. First she needed time to mature, she figured, then to mentor the crop of incoming freshmen.
"Nothing is wasted," she said. "The only way I know to combat adversity is to say, 'Well, this is a good thing because...'
"Instead I'd be a force from the bench. I wanted to be an energy train for the team, to do whatever I could to still be a part of the team and help the team."
With each injury, her determination to play remained strong. But reason caught up with her this past Christmas. At home recovering from a third ACL reconstruction surgery, Lawson talked for hours with her parents about the decision.
Again, she began to cry. She knew it was time to let go.
Lawson will graduate this May with a degree in mass communications and a minor in sports and media. The host of the popular "This Week in Belmont Athletics" web segment as well as a frequent presence at Belmont sporting events as sideline reporter, Lawson looks forward to her next phase of life pursuing a career in sports media.
"It was such a hard decision. Sometimes you hold on to something so tightly, and God wants to put something big in that hand, but there's no room," she said. "All it takes is for you to let go, let go so your hand is open to accept something else. My hand is open now."
VIDEO �� || TWIBA celebrates a 4x OVC Champion, an OVC pitcher of the week and so much more - It's TWIBA Time! | 'This Week in Belmont Athletics' featuring @BelmontWBB Paris Lawson #ItsBruinTime #TWIBA #OVC #Baseball pic.twitter.com/jF3FCyWIUF— Belmont Athletics (@GoBelmontBruins) March 13, 2019